Hot on the heels of Havana Rakatan, which was at the Peacock Theatre last week, and just before Ballet Nacional de Cuba at the Coliseum next week, Danza Contemporanea de Cuba put in a short visit at Sadler’s Wells proving that Cuba can do modern moves as expertly as salsa grooves and balletic grace.
The 20-or-so dancers of Danza Contemporanea de Cuba are gorgeous. Young and good looking, they have a focus and seriousness often lacking in many European troupes, who you suspect of sleep walking through many shows so spoilt they are for performance opportunities. The Cubans by contrast look hungry – to dance, to try new steps, and to see the world.
Unfortunately, the rep they have to perform is dated by Western standards, and the dancers, who have been isolated by Cuba’s politics, lag behind their European colleagues in artistic understanding. It’s is very strange to see such technically able dancers miss the point of moves that European dancers get without thinking.
Home grown choreographer George Cespedes did the dancers no favors with his Mambo 3XXI. It starts with the dancers in drab costumes and strict lines. They gradually peel off to move in their own style, and their enthusiasm and flair is considerable. However, the piece lacks depth compared to, say, Itzik Galili's A Linha Curva which Rambert dance and which manages to both spoof and honor the line dancing on which it is based.
This lack of ironic distance was further in evidence in the second piece, Casi-Casa by Mats Ek. The Swedish choreographer has a distinctive style, and all credit to the Cubans for choosing to work with the innovative dance maker. However, the dancers need to both take seriously and slyly undermine his style, something they lack the artistic experience to do.
With time, they should manage both, and then Cuba will be a dance country to really reckon with.