100% Cuban

Pepe Gavilondo
Liberto
Jenny Peña and Randy Araujo
Hybrid
Leo Brouwer and Stefan Levin
Paysage, soudain, la nuit
Pepe Gavilondo
Impronta
Kumar, Kike Wolf – from Beautiful Cuban by José White and Omar Sosa
De Punta a Cabo

Liberto
Choreography – Raúl Reinoso
Costumes – Alisa Pelaez
Lighting – Yaron Abulafia
Dancers – Zeleidy Creapo, Mario Sergio Elias

Hybrid
Choreography – Norge Cedeño and Thais Suárez
Costumes – Celia Ladón
Lighting and Set – Yaron Abulafia
Dancers – Yasser Dominguez, Laura Rodriguez, Raúl Reinoso, Arelys Hernánde, Alejandro Silva, Penélope Morejón, Marco Palomino, Liliana Menéndez, Chay Torres, Patricia Torres

Paysage, soudain, la nuit
Choreography – Pontus Lidberg
Costumes – Karen Young
Lighting – Patrik Bogårdh
Dancers – Yasser Dominguez, Laura Rodriguez, Raúl Reinoso, Liliana Menéndez, Alejandro Silva, Patricia Torres, Enrique Corrales, Penélope Morejón, Marco Palomino, Mario Sergio Elias, Chay Torres

Impronta
Choreography – Maria Rovira
Lighting – Pedro Benitez

De Punta a Cabo
Choreography – Alexis Fernandez and Yaday Ponce
Costumes – Vladimir Cuenca
Lighting – Yaron Abulafia
Dancers – Yasser Dominguez, Laura Rodriguez, Raúl Reinoso, Liliana Menéndez, Alejandro Silva, Patricia Torres, Enrique Corrales, Penélope Morejón, Marco Palomino, Mario Sergio Elias, Chay Torres, Amisaday Naara, Arelys Hernández, Patricia Torres, Zeleidy Crespo


3 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 9 February, 2022
Venue: Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London

It was unfortunate for the Acosta Danza company that their founder and director Carlos Acosta was not present for their opening night at Sadler’s Wells – he was in Southampton, putting the finishing touches to his new production of Don Quixote for Birmingham Royal Ballet, of which is also the director.  Not that it seemed to bother the hugely likeable dancers of this mid-scale ensemble, who set about their quintuple bill with commendable gusto.  Since their creation in 2015, Acosta Danza has sought to showcase the best of Cuban contemporary dance and ‘100% Cuban’ was a good run-through of what they have achieved so far.

From the off, it is worth saying that dancing in Cuba is clearly more advanced than choreography – the single strongest piece on show, Paysage, soudain, la nuit, was by the Swedish dance-maker Pontus Lidberg whose work is in demand globally.  It is easy to see why – he choreographs with notable fluidity and interplays with his chosen music with sophistication. 

His brief, as a non-Cuban, was to look at the island country through his eyes, and he has created a joyous work which, nonetheless, has tinges of something darker running through it.  He includes a male duet in the ever-changing groupings which people the stage, and it is noticeable that he does not labour the point, the physical changes needed when two men partner each other unshowily achieved.

No other work in the programme was on the same level, however enjoyable some of it may have been.  The Cuban choreographers seem unwilling or unable to detach their movement vocabulary from the popular national dance styles, the rumba being the most recognisable.  This ‘latino’ rhythm often sits uneasily with their efforts at more contemporary moves and often leads to a fragmented quality.  Liberto, a duet for the amazonian Zeleidy Crespo and the quicksilver Mario Sergio Elias, is a successful if at times overwrought amalgam of escaped slave narrative and supernatural intervention and does not outstay its welcome, which is more than can be said for the overlong Hybrid, a messy, unsophisticated affair, apparently inspired by the myth of Sisyphus.  The choreography looks like an audition piece for ‘Cuba’s Got Talent’ and is costumed in clear homage to the wonky sci-fi TV series of the 1980s.  Best avoided.

The quite wonderful Crespo gets Impronta, a solo which demonstrates her magnetic stage presence, but is of passing interest in terms of movement, which leaves the feel-good De Punta a Cabo, a celebration of contemporary Cuba with projections of the Malecón, Havana’s long beach drag where all life happens.  It is a potpourri of dance styles, from classical ballet with pointe shoes and fouetté turns, street dance, the inevitable rumba, much delightful posturing and broad grins.  In truth, as a piece, it is not quite as good as it thinks it is, but it gets the audience clapping along and sends them off happily into the night.

Acosta himself says and writes a great deal about the essence of Cuba which he wishes his ensemble to communicate; he also has ambitious plans which include versions of Romeo and Juliet and the Nutcracker; that will radically change the company’s style, which may not be a bad thing.  These are talented dancers and accomplished performers who may be finding themselves constrained by the imperative to be ‘100% Cuban’ 100% of the time – it may be opportune for them to spread their wings a little and frankly get a taste for better choreography than their home country can offer at present.

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