Arts Reviews Culture

Review: Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, Wales Millennium Centre

Danza Contemporanea De Cuba, Photographed in Furth, Germany, 2016

Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, Tuesday 28th February, Wales Millennium Centre, Reviewer: Penelope Barnes

The long-established and highly prestigious Danza Contemporánea De Cuba stopped in Cardiff this February, bringing with them a welcomed ray of Cuban sunshine to an otherwise wintery Welsh evening. A hot-ticket for any dance fan, the troupe boasts a blend of smooth American modernism and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, flecked with European ballet. However, with an excellent reputation to uphold and many of the dancers fresh from the company’s school – can this nationwide tour mesmerize U.K. audiences like it has in the past?

The Millennium Centre’s stage, accustom to being dressed up in all manner of theatrical set design, was stripped bare and lit with a single amber bulb for the first of the show’s triple bill – Reversible by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. A steady drum beat moved a pair of dancers out from a larger crowd, and this initially satisfied what some audience members would expect of the show – the hot and heavy Salsa moves found in the streets of Havana. But Ochoa quickly dismissed this traditional type of pairing. As the music by Jean Claude Kerinac and Staff Elmeddah introduced a bachata rhythm, strong dance work emerged from the females and softer body language came from the males, allowing us to question gender roles and stereotyping. This was a well thought out and expertly performed piece; with a clever use of stage space and lighting.

In Cornish-born Theo Clinkard’s The Listening Room the audience experienced Steve Reich’s music, but the dancers were plugged into an iPod silent disco. This was an interesting concept as it introduced an element I’ve not seen before – the dancers weren’t moving to the score we were listening to. Loose-limbed when they were in their own private world, yet highly controlled when dancing toward the audience, Clinkard’s choreography allowed me to be both an outsider and an engaged audience member. As much as I enjoyed this concept, and the dancer’s ability to be spontaneous, it did feel a little slow and overworked at times. However, to close the piece the dancers used nothing but their body language and expressions to inject some humour into the performance. This demonstrated an incredibly high level of talent, and allowed for an entertaining ending.

The finale, created by Olivier nominated George Céspedes, was undoubtedly the highlight. Matria Etnocentra began with all two dozen dancers stomping, saluting and marching together to an incessant drum beat. The dancers mirrored each other with such militaristic precision, it nodded to Castro’s revolutionary army. However, amongst the high level of control, Céspedes choreographed some soloists to break away and show off their own style. Both Iosmaly Ordoñes and Leyna González stood out to me, as they remained sharp and precise throughout whilst still allowing their individual charm and Cuban spirit to shine through.

All in all, it was a privilege to watch such an amazing performance – I’d highly recommend this show to anyone!

by Penelope Barnes