For two very sexy contemporary dance nights at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, courtesy of Dance Consortium, Cuba’s flagship contemporary dance troupe, Danza Contemporánea De Cuba, are a red hot ‘must have’ ticket to get any dance fan in a fevered frenzy. A welcome ray of Cuban sunshine on a cold February night, this delightful dance company’s repertoire is three works by different choreographers culminating in uniquely zingy fresh dance fusions. Each work is exuberant in its own style and the extraordinary Cuban dancers are mesmerising. DCC are an ethnically diverse company originally formed in September 1959. The Cuban real life hardships actually encourage great creativity within the dancers. In Cuba, far from being exclusive – music and dance are part of everyday life. Oliver Award nominated choreographer George Céspedes attributes this to a link between economic hardship and creativity. The company’s distinct aesthetic and Cuban modern dance techniques are strongly influenced by their African and Spanish ancestors.
Belgian- Columbian, Annabella Lopez Ochoa choreographs Reversible. The piece plays with ideas of gender, sexual power and rivalry. The company of dancers dance with extraordinarily virile sexuality. Their dancing comes across like it is the last time they are going to dance and they really go for it. The Cubans offer out warmth and being extremely physical people, they often hug within the energetic dance as well as being very playful with their moves. Beginning with a partially naked Adam and Eve section, Reversible, whilst being vigorous, comes across ultimately as a very humbling experience for both the audience and dancers. In the piece we see how body language is key to Cuban courtship. The upper body finds itself in male expression whereas the hips and central to female sexual expression. Reversible is a very sensuous dance work; a sensuality which is omnipresent in Cuban culture. Within the core of the dance we discover deep levels of poetic body language and groupings.
The soundtrack incorporates music by Jean Claude Kerinac and Staff Elmeddah, Kroke, Scanner and Eric Vaarzon Morel. We discover too a Caribbean intermezzo based on the bachata rhythm where the women use their physical attraction as a playful weapon. The aim of the work is that men and women are ‘reversible’ and the piece challenges the perspective of society as the company demonstrate an intimate closeness throughout. It is mind blowingly well presented.
The choreographer for The Listening Room is UK based Theo Clinkard. Clinkard is a Brighton based choreographer, stage designer and performer. The concept for the piece is that the audience are not listening to the same music as the dancers. To date Clinkard has premiered twenty-two original dances and is in demand worldwide. In The Listening Room the piece starts silently as we witness the dancers gathered on the front of the stage. They appear to move very little and are listening to various pieces of music on the their headsets until the soundtrack begins for the audience where we fully experience US composer Steve Reich’s Variations for vibes piano and strings. Clinkard expresses this as a sonic war but this is not an alienating process as the dancers engage with the audience throughout. In fact there is much humour wrought from the aural conflict betwixt audience and individual dancers. The piece can change each time on tour but Clinkard says that there is enough structure within the micro dances to hold the piece together.
Cuba’s very own dance superstar George Céspedes choreographs Matria Etnocentra. Matria is synonymous with motherland and Etnocentra is people saying that their culture is the best in the world. The infectious creative generosity of the energetic and strong dancers of Danza Contemporánea De Cuba is perhaps best demonstrated in this final dance work, Matria Etnocentra. Whilst the choreography is typically restrictive the movements also pulse magnificently. At times as observers we could be watching dance that has a highly militaristic feel; one that thunders with the incessant beat of the musical tracks by Nacional Electronica and Hermanos Expósito. Other times the dancers become newly costumed in red white and blue and liberated by the music of Ignacio Villa (Bola de Nieve) and Vete de mi (Hermanos Expósito). The result is a totally joyous exposition.
Altogether this is an amazingly delightful and vibrant evening of inspiring dance by the fabulous artistry of Danza Contemporánea De Cuba on the very first leg of their current ten venue national tour.
Review originally written for and published by Nottingham Post.