Nestled in the belly of the purple cow on the banks of the River Thames, a Cuban party was in full swing offering rum shots, dancing and audience participation. The UK dance scene has been bursting with Cuban flavour lately with companies such as Ballet Revolución and Danza Contemporánea de Cuba turning up the heat. E4?s Udderbelly Festival saw the sounds and rhythm of Havana Rumba light up the South Bank with tastes of salsa, mambo, cha cha cha, reggaeton and rakatan. Havana Rumba was written and directed by internationally-acclaimed and award-winning Toby Gough. Gough also wrote and directed the internationally-renowned Lady Salsa, which was staged in the West End for two years. Havana Rumba is his second show to hit the E4 Udderbelly Festival after Brazil! Brazil! headlined the festival in 2010 with a bang. “Rumba tells a story,” said Leo Almaguer, the lead singer of the house band, as Havana Rumba offered us a quick history lesson of Cuban dance. The Kings of Cuban Dance had acrobatic male dancers and their gorgeous female counterparts provided both visuals and humour. The sensual sounds and raucous beats were provided by Sonora La Calle, Cuba’s infamous salsa band with guest appearance from Juventino ‘El Chico Divino’ from Cuba’s super-group Charanga Habanera. Highlights of the performance included the cheeky tricks and acrobatics of one of Cuba’s top dancers, veteran Eric Turro Martinez, aka El Maestro and his incredible salsa moves with three female dancers. The tunes made you want to get up on stage and join the professionals, and they certainly catered for our needs with a little audience participation towards the end, using a simple dance routine which would make Ricky Martín proud. Rumba really is the people’s dance so get up and boogie your way to the Udderbelly Festival. This is the way to the party!
A woman in black appears onstage, walks to the microphone and instructs the lights to come on and the performance to start. A second woman dressed in a short nude-coloured underwearlike dress, hair slicked back in a tight bun and black heels walks model-like onto the stage and around the large diamond-shaped catwalk which is stuck to the floor with tape. Two other women follow and line up behind the bottles of water that have been put into a line to the left of the lady in black at the microphone. It is clear, this is going to be a performance to remember but will it be for the right reasons? Choreographers Argentine Mariana Lucia Marquez and French Emma Zangs met during Laban’s MA Choreography course and have regularly worked together ever since, including recently choreographing Cherry Bloom’s new music video for MTV. They are recognised for pushing the boundaries and stripping back material to its bare bones. Unfashion explores the life and tribulations of models. How they move, how they stand, and with Marquez and Zangs unravelling the rules or idioms which they live by. This is done by giving the performers instructions and directions and closing the space down to two small triangles and a tiny square for the performers to manoeuver in. The piece is full of small moments where that could be reflected on either comedy or sad realistic ideals especially as you see the models and their makeup begin to melt in the heat of the lights. The audience – almost a full house in the small surrounds of The Hub – seemed to love this performance. It soon became clear, however, that the audience contained dance students and recent graduates. Unfashioned is definitely meant for diehard dance enthusiasts who love minimal experimentalism. If this is you, you are sure to love it.
In the gorgeous underground surroundings of the The Hub at the Roundhouse, the lights came up on two dancers sitting with their knees up before tipping into a fetal position and slowly moving in a clockwork motion. CODA Dance was formed in 2010 by London-based choreographer Nikki Watson, a graduate of Roehampton University. Since their formation they have performed at Platform AD and Resolution! at The Place. You Remind Me of Someone I Once Knew is the fourth piece from CODA Dance and tells the story of a daughter dealing her mother’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The linear performance depicts the stages of grief: for example denial, anger and bargaining, from different characters’ perspectives. The CODA dancers Kimberly Collins and Georgia-Leigh Godfrey presented a caring and moving portrayal of their characters. Standout moments included the use of different directions, the contact work in the duets, and the combination of fast moments followed by intimate moments. A really lovely scene involved one dancer tracing the footsteps of the other while she was moving on the floor. Perhaps in telling us the theme of the story prior to the performance performance, I expected a clearer narrative to unfold, and I found myself looking for the five stages of grief. There were sections of the piece which could have been explored more but this could have been down to it only being 15 minutes long. In conclusion, the dancers have a very strong connection and the choreography is beautiful: CODA Dance is definitely a company to watch!
Aracaladanza, the critically-acclaimed Madrid-based dance company, brought their touring performance of Clouds, known in Spanish as Nubes, to Jerwood Dance House in Ipswich this week. Co-commissioned by Dance East and Sadler’s Wells, Clouds is a family show inspired by the works of the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte directed by award-winning Argentinean choreographer Enrique Cabrera. It forms one third of a trilogy of pieces taking influence from visual artists El Bosco, Magritte and Miró. The performance was a surreal and energetic display of contemporary dance bursting with quirky imagery, the narrative playing out like a symmetrical dream. The piece began with box-shaped miniature houses piled up in the centre of the stage. Lit up in unison, they were individually taken off the stage by dancers dressed in over-sized jackets. One lonely house remained in the spotlight until a small fluffy cloud appeared. The black backdrop fell and the performance began. Aracaladanza danced with a multitude of clouds, ranging in size, shape and texture. The clouds weren’t limited to physical props: animated depictions were also projected onto the cloth at the rear of the stage. The excitement of the performance gradually built with costumes, characters and the tactile props becoming more bizarre, exuberant and inspiring as the piece progressed. A mixture of contemporary dance, contact and circus were on display to the attendees. Clouds treated the audience to a combination of both video and live performance in the same time and space. Duets and group dances were filled with comedy, and some solo pieces displayed a Martha Graham influence. Highlights included a group of faceless men in suits, dancing in an simplistic manner juxtaposed to a chaotic and playful theme tune, mischievous use of dancers’ shadows and the illusion of plastic rain falling upon the stage. Despite the energetic pace and creative theme, Clouds left me feeling like the performance was playing it safe overall. I felt that the surreal theme could have been pushed more, and that in trying to appeal to all ages Aracaladanza’s show lacked an edge from an adult’s perspective. That said, overall, Clouds is a wonderful offering of family entertainment and the young audience soaked in every minute of the unusual fun. I recommend you go to the next viewing, it will brighten your day.
While the rain hammered down on a grey and dismal evening in London, the Peacock Theatre came alive with the fresh beats of the Ballet With Attitude. Ballet Revolución took the audience back to the roots and traditions of Cuban dance with a celebration of dance and soon had everyone dancing in their seats with wide smiles on their face for the two hours they performed. Ballet Revolución is comprised of young versatile talent that has emerged from the two most prestigious Cuban Conservatories. Cleverly choreographed by the multi-talented duo Aaron Cash and Roclan Gonzalez Chavez, it showcases an impressive plethora of dance styles and techniques such as hiphop, street, breakdancing, contemporary, ballet and Cuban traditional dance to name but a few. From the minute the curtain went up, the atmosphere was electric. There was an eclectic mixture of live music played by the talented musicians including Luis Palacios Galvez, a genius on congas. The music ranged from Ricky Martin’s Livin’ la vida loca, Beyonce’s Single Ladies, Usher’s DJ got us falling in love again, Gotan Project and much more. Every movement was a highlight, from the intricate high jumps, back flips and death-defying lifts to the comedy sections which filled the auditorium with laughter and fun and the pure passion for the movement and music oozing from the dancers. The biggest highlight for many was the chair dance with two couples which was almost like watching the two styles of contemporary and ballet up against each other: a routine which started with two identical duets, which then continued and illustrated the differences and similarities of movement in the styles used. Ballet Revolución is definitely a performance to remember, with amazing dancing, singing and tunes. Listen to the audiences with their standing ovations: book tickets now and see this outstanding show.