About the Danza

The Puerto Rican Danza occupies a significant place in the musical history of the island, inspiring a uniquely patriotic love and profound sense of romanticism deeply rooted in the culture itself. Through the danza, the people of Puerto Rico have vicariously lived joy, sorrow, patriotism, love, anguish – all the feelings which make Puerto Ricans noble, vibrant, and happy human beings.

The danza traces its origins to a Spanish contradanza form consisting of two parts, which was popular during the early nineteenth century. The accompaniment of the contradanza was strict and the form rigid. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, a group of young Cuban diplomats introduced a different form of the dance, one with a flexible rhythmic accompaniment – the habanera rhythm. Puerto Rican composers used this rhythm in pieces that linked the contradanza to the developing and more flexible Puerto Rican danza. In the latter's evolution, the influence of the habanera rhythm developed into what musicologists termed the "elastic triplet" – a triplet figuration which included a subtle rubato after the figure's second note. The original two parts of the contradanza were separated, thus giving the form room for expansion. By 1865, Manuel Tavárez and other composers of the time had produced examples of this new dance form. With the works of Juan Morel Campos (1857-1896), the danza reached its maturity.

The form's ultimate structure contained four principal sections and a coda. Each section was repeated. The first section, with a less-defined rhythmic structure, became the paseo, a promenade of dance couples around the ballroom leading to a dance. Harmonically, the introduction and the first two sections were in a minor key, modulating to a major key in the third section.

Originally, the danza was dance music, played by instrumental groups or a solo piano. As the form developed, words were set to existing melodies and melodies developed for well-known poems. The present recording features the danza for solo voice with piano accompaniment, one of the favorite combinations for its interpretation.

Today, as we approach the twenty-first century, the danza is very much alive, performed and enjoyed, inspiring new works by contemporary composers and poets. In some of the present-day danzas, the basic structure has been modified somewhat. However, the rhythmic patterns that identify the "air" of the danza are certainly present.

This recording contains representative danzas composed from around 1865 to the present. Included are such early pioneers as Manuel G. Tavárez (1843-1883), as well as modern-day exponents such as Narciso Figueroa, Graciela Rivera, Edmundo Disdier, Manuel González, and Antonio Cabán Vale (El Topo). Well-known danza composers like Rafael Alers (1903-1978), Jesús M. Escobar (1900-1987), José Ignacio Quintón (1881-1925), Luis R. Miranda (1875-1949), Simón Madera (1872-1956), and Angel Mislán (1862-1911) are represented as well. Extensive coverage is given to the danzas of the great Juan Morel Campos as a tribute on the 100th anniversary of his death. The recorded selections have been arranged according to the topics that have inspired danza composers: Hermosos Recuerdos (Cherished Memories) serves as an introduction to what the danza signifies. The different categories – A la Patria (To the Homeland), A las Damas (To the Ladies), Al Coquí (The coquí is a tiny frog that lives only in Puerto Rico and emits a singing sound of an octave.), A los Anhelos de Amor (To Love's Longings) – contain some of the most beautiful and well-know danzas in the repertoire.

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