Cuba’s Plus-Size Dance Troupe Is Breaking Stereotypes, Opening Minds

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"I needed more opportunities to perform."

Cuban dancer and choreographer Juan Miguel Mas used to belong to a traditional dance troupe, but he rarely made it on stage because of his weight. “I created a character for myself to play, Giant Baby, and that was the first and only time I was allowed on stage,” he says. “I needed more opportunities to perform.” In 1996, he’d decided he’d had enough, and created Danza Voluminosa, a dance troupe especially for people who didn’t fit the mold of traditional dancers. Mas’ goal wasn’t just to use larger people to recreate the same old dance moves; he wanted to “create an aesthetic starting from their bodies that were more soft, more wide.”

Nearly 16 years later, the troupe of seven dancers has staged three full-length shows, 30 shorter dances, and has gained publicity and respect all over the world. At times it’s taken audiences a while to adjust, but Mas says they always come around: “We’ve played in places for the first time where people have shouted at us, ‘look at those fat people!’ We still hear giggles sometimes, but when audiences see the sense of purpose, the work that has gone into the show, our concentration, well, there’s always huge applause at the end.” Check out the video above to see Danza Voluminosa in action and meet some of the members. I would love to get the chance to see them perform someday. [Cuba Absolutely]

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