Guillermo ‘El Iyawo’ Davis
By Judith Palmer
Guillermo Davis is a former dancer/choreographer with the Danza Libre company of Cuba. His cultural name is EL IYAWO meaning Son of God, which is the pseudonym he uses to promote his work. Now resident in the UK, his reputation as a tutor in Cuban dance has won him a following, resulting in a number of classes in London with further classes developing nationwide and in Europe.
ADAD went along to the first of the Orisha classes held on Thursdays at the City University, Angel. One unusual thing about this class is that there is a ‘dress-code’ women wear long flowing skirts and bandanas which are tied in a specific way. The men wear scarves around their necks tied loosely in colours that represent the particular Orisha form that is being taught, in this case the colours were Red and Black to represent ‘Eleggua’ the Yoruba trickster-messenger god; spirit of the crossroads.
The technique is skilfully ‘broken down’ to the most basic movement and ‘rebuilt’ with such subtlety that before you know it you’ve achieved what initially seemed quite an impossible task!
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN DANCE?
I liked to dance from I was a very young child when I used to go to birthday parties people knew that I liked to dance they would say “Guillermo dance, dance!” When I was 16 I was studying in an arts institution, I started in traditional dance in Sept 1977. I worked for 12 years as an amateur dancer, I did some work towards the carnival in 1978, I worked with children in schools and adolescents, using dance as therapy. After that I joined Danza Libre company as a founder member, I was a dance teacher, choreographer and sometimes costume designer while I was there. I also worked in the Artist’s School in Guantanamo for 2 years. I worked in Guantanamo for 23 years before coming to England.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TEACHING DANCE IN THE UK?
I’ve been a teacher here for 2 years. I came to the UK with Danza Libre company then the manager sent me to do some workshops in King’s Cross, in Leeds, in Norfolk, in Norwich all over the place.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT TEACHING IN THE UK?
I like it here because in Cuba I have contributed many years towards teaching dance people love dance many people have access to dance. But here it is different I have been to places where people don’t know anything about dance and I start to give classes and people come to me and say that because of my classes they would like to go and study in Cuba or they would like to go to Cuba and see what it’s like. So I can see that I am giving the experience of dance to the people this is my life’s work I don’t dance for myself.
ARE YOU CONTINUING THE WORK OF DANZA LIBRE?
In the beginning I was identified by the work that I did with Danza Libre but now I have decided to build a reputation for myself, by developing my work under my artist name El Iyawo. The relationship between myself and Danza Libre still continues because I help them to promote their work in Cuba from here.
DO YOU WANT TO CREATE ANOTHER DANCE COMPANY?
Maybe in the future because I like working with children, but first I would like to go to college to learn English because my English is not very good and I need to be able to communicate with the people. I am currently working with a Latin American dance school and it is easy for me to communicate with the children because they speak Spanish.
Despite the language barrier, El Iyawo was able to conduct two interviews at once! Watch this space for an up-close and personal interview featuring family members involved in dance, his teaching technique, aspirations for the future and forthcoming projects.