Zorongo's ConVivir explores religion and intolerance

Susana Di Palma 

Susana Di Palma 

In their latest work, premiering at the Cowles Center this weekend, Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre takes on the interplay between the three largest monotheistic religions. Titled ConVivir, the piece, choreographed by Zorongo's artistic director Susana Di Palma, follows one woman, played by Di Palma, as she journeys from Spain's Convivencia period to today. 

The Convivencia period in Spanish history took place from 711 to 1492 AD, a time when when there was a proliferation of Islamic culture in the region, and tolerance for the different faiths (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). "For 700 years, there was a harmonious sharing of faiths," Di Palma says. 

The piece also explores the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. "Jews had days to get out," she says. Not long after, the Muslims were also forced to leave. 

The piece then travels to contemporary times, where religious intolerance proliferates both in the Middle East and the United States. Di Palma says that there's "a little bit of Nietzsche" in the dance, as well as inspiration from the work of Karen Armstrong, who wrote History of God and 12 Steps to a More Compassionate Life.  

Brought up Catholic, a number of Di Palma's works take on Catholicism. ConVivir, inspired in part by a recent trip to Spain with her husband, who happens to be Jewish, has created a shift in her personally. "It's converted me into a freelance monotheist," she says.

Di Palma says that ConVivir is a spiritual piece, which has been blessed with a smooth creation process. "I'm surprised how it's coming together without any tension," she says. 

Joining the Zorongo dancers are a host of international musicians. There's Amir-John Haddad, a Madrid-based flamenco guitarist who also plays oud, bazouki, and electric oud. Haddad works with José Salinas, from Alicante, whom Di Palma describes as "handsome as all get-out." Though very young, "when he opens his mouth he becomes 70 years old," she says. "He has an ancient voice." 

Also performing is Arcadio Marin, a composer and flamenco guitarist from Barcelona, who Di Palma has known for 20 years. Other musicians include Egyptian Conja "La Conja" Abdessalam, who is based in Sri Lanka, and is a noted flamenco singer who also sings in Arabic.

Locally based singer David Jordan Harris, from Voices of Sepharad, will be performing, as well as percussionist Tim O'Keefe. Watch out for guest dancers Judith Brin Ingber and Antonio Arrebola, who is from Malaga, as well as projections and original music by Craig Harris. 


ConVivir: 7 Dances to A More Compassionate World

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts

528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis