Tisbury School students got a private performance Tuesday by an internationally acclaimed dance ensemble from Cuba. A favorite among summer dance audiences on the Vineyard for several years, Malpaso Dance Company arrived on Island for its first off-season residency at the Yard earlier this month.

Last week, the troupe performed for students and visited Spanish classes at the regional high school, and gave a public concert for about 400 people at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center on March 4.

Before Tuesday’s appearance at the Tisbury School, the five male and five female Malpaso dancers stretched out on the gym floor, limbering up as the bleachers filled with children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Students at the Tisbury school were able to ask questions after the performance. — Jeanna Shepard

School staffers, including food service workers in aprons and the resource police officer in uniform, also turned out for the performance, which began after a few words from the Yard’s director of Island programs and education, Jesse Keller Jason.

“Can you say ‘Hola, Malpaso?’” she asked the assembled youngsters, who obliged enthusiastically.

Choreographing a dance, Ms. Keller Jason told the children, is the process of building a dance out of different movements, inspired by images, emotions and experiences.

“One thing I love about dance is that it tells a story, but … not like you’re seeing a play,” she said. “You’re not hearing the dancers talk, you’re seeing them move.”

Dancers use their bodies, their faces and their emotions to create the feeling of a piece and the audience interprets what they do, Ms. Keller Jason said.

“Everyone in this space is going to have a different story that’s created in their heads.”

Jesse Keller Jason, director of Island programs and education the Yard. — Jeanna Shepard

The performance itself, a 20-minute excerpt from a piece called Elemental, gave the students plenty to think about. Choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams spent three weeks in Cuba with the Havana-based dancers to create the work, Ms. Keller Jason said. The piece on Tuesday was a series of passionately elegant moments, including solos, duets and groups.

The dancers moved fluidly from floor work to lifts, runs and leaps, often entwining their limbs in complex, changing positions. Sometimes their movements seemed combative, while others were tender and loving or even humorous.

Paying rapt attention throughout, the young audience gasped at one particularly dramatic lift, and laughed when dancer Abel Rojo bared his teeth in a grimace during one passage.

After the dance, Ms. Keller Jason introduced the performers and company director Fernando Sàez, who sat in a line on the gym floor while the children reacted to their work.

“I noticed that at the beginning, there was a lot of fast music and I’m guessing that meant that they were in like a battle, because I’m used to that,” one child said.

Another student observed that some of the dancers seemed to be working really hard to be married to someone, or to kill them.

“I noticed that every time they did a different dance, the song kind of went with the dance,” a third child said.

“The music, the costumes, all of that creates the atmosphere,” Ms. Keller Jason replied.