“You absolutely believed that this fierce Yemaya’s powerful shoulders and arms and huge spiraling turns (belonging to Susanna Arenas Pedroso) could churn up whole oceans”
But if you had to choose one unforgettable number, it would be Arenas Dance Company — an all-female Afro-Cuban troupe working strongly from Yoruba spiritual traditions — doing a rumba with brooms. In the opening of “Manos de Mujeres a la Obra” — “Women’s Hands at Work”— three Yoruban deities scream and stomp and swish their frothy skirts. I have never seen dancing more fearsomely beautiful.
The all-woman Arenas Dance Company’s Afro-Cuban dance — big-hearted, confident, and soulful — was a delight. Manos de Mujeres a la Obra (Women’s Hands at Work) ranged from the rhythms of Santeria, the Cuban religion based on traditional Yoruba worship practiced by enslaved West Africans, to the sultry yambú, a rumba also from African and Spanish musical genres, which developed in the late 1800s. Women, strong and worldly wise, are depicted dancing with brooms and singing proudly of their womanly power, even in housework. Women are the choristers, too, and stunningly, the drummers. As choreographed by artistic director Susana Arenas Pedroso, it’s a lively combination.
Dance Magazine, 2012
“Last weekend’s “Yo Soy Cuba,” presented by the Arenas Dance Company, probed the vivacious intermarriage of Cuba’s Spanish and African traditions through music and dance sequences rooted in the rich mythopoetic history of the nation. Relaying the cultural legacies of deities such as Yemaya (the mother goddess of Santeria) and Babaluaye (the father of the world and the Orisha, or deity, of care and compassion) through ritualistic performance, the Arenas Dance Company wove a remarkable tapestry of a mythology that seems strangely relevant and grounding amidst the chaos of our geopolitical milieu.”
“Susana Arenas Pedroso’s new version of Yemaya, Ocean Mother, with live music, including her as the lead singer, evoked the give and take of the ocean with mesmerizing intensity. Supported by seven fellow dancers, Regina Tolbert’s Yemaya rolled her shoulders and swayed her skirts, gathering and releasing energy. Playful one moment and ferocious the next, she kept joining a larger whole but also metamorphosed out of it.”
“Susana Arenas Pedroso, a beautiful woman with a generous stage presence, was riveting when she danced and gave the best impression of Ramos’ choreography.”
SF Gate, 2003