Danza Contemporanea de Cuba @ Sadler’s Wells, London

performed by
Michel Avalos, Heidy Batista, Daileidys Carrazana, Yosmell Calderon, Edson L. Cabrera, Norge Cedeno, Osnel Delgado, Wuilleys Estacholi, Alberto Gozalez, Yelda Leyva, Daylis Lopez, Jennifer Martin, Jenny Nocedo, Marta Ortego, Gabriela Pineiro, Yaday Ponce, Abel Rojo, Joel Suarez, Thais Suarez, Jennifer Tejeda, Aymara VilaAlthough Danza Contemporanea de Cuba is now fifty years old, 2010 marks its first tour of the United Kingdom

The two pieces performed at Sadler’s Wells, its final stop on the tour, capture the flavour and essence of Cuba, whilst steering clear of presenting a stereotypical view of the country.

The first piece, Casi-Casa, choreographed by the world renowned Mats Ek, combines the earthly with the spiritual, and constantly keeps the audience guessing. Focusing on three couples, and a further trio of male performers, the work opens with a man reclining on a Bauhaus-inspired chair, his legs rising vertically to stand at right angles with his prostrate body.
He then spits and spruces up, his arms darting about at breakneck speed, and his leg rotating through nearly 360 degrees high into the air. He then stops his preening when his partner arrives, although she later leads an exuberant dance with vacuum cleaners.

But the work isnt all about domestic bliss. A second couple dance a pas de deux around a smoking cooker, before we become horrified when we discover what it contains. Another young girl seems enthralled when a dashing man dances with, and frequently gropes, her. It soon becomes clear, however, that this is just a dream sequence, and when she really does meet him the outcome does not appear quite so happy. The dance steps throughout are innovative, and with a generally mellow, but frequently potent, soundtrack from the Flesh Quartet, the piece feels deeply multi-faceted, right up until the end when one dancer collapses amidst an otherwise joyous dance.

Mambo 3XXI, choreographed by George Cespedes, is full of exuberance, but it still possesses enough quieter moments to keep us guessing all the way. It begins and ends with large ensemble dances where the performers stand in lines, thrusting their arms upwards before crouching as low as they can go. In between there are short dramatic turns from individuals or pairs of performers, before quintets of dancers lift, and tumble over, each other in some tightly choreographed sequences. The excitement, however, is tempered by scenes that see couples coming together and parting almost immediately, or by the sight of individuals whom amidst all the splendour of the abundant spectacle suddenly find themselves left all alone.

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba is only performing for two nights at Sadlers Wells on this occasion, but when they do return – and Artistic Director Alistair Spalding has promised they will – you may need to book early if you want to avoid missing out.

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