Danza Contemporanea de Cuba smashes Cuban dance clichés
Brilliant triple bill channels themes of private worlds and public unity
Cuba is known for its gruelling contemporary and classical dance training, creating dancers with versatility and impeccable technique, all of which comes to the fore in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's brilliant Reversible, the first and standout work in this triple bill from Danza Contemporanea de Cuba.
Beginning with two mushrooms of dancers clustered together, one person on each is raised aloft, turned and paraded; a man and a woman. Framed by the ensemble they lace into an intimate duet, with wedding echoes in its ritual and reverence. Soon we're in different territory as couples pair off more colloquially into sparring flirtations – the dance equivalent of watching the two sharpest, wittiest people in the room converse.
Ochoa's final meditative image to a setting sun is softly beautiful. Magnetic in its sensuality and spirituality from start to finish, Reversible feels like a gorgeous prayer to intimacy and social connection.
Keeping the social angle firmly in the lens, Theo Clinkard's The Listening Room seems made for a Facebook generation, with its modishly androgynous clothes, geometric shapes, and the white earbud stems that trail down each dancer's neck. Cyclical, clockwork patterns of movement are set to Steve Reich's jagged loops of piano and strings, but halfway through, the music stops – quietly the stage comes alive with real sound; squeaks and breaths, counts and laughter. When the score kicks back in, you realise how soundtracks – such as headphones give us – can shift your perspective, though they also bring their own richness in harmonising with the movement of the real world.
Cuba's own George Céspedes created the final piece, Matria Etnocentra, an exploration of the melting pot and contradictions of Cuban culture, playfully tangling images of army drills, pop dance moves and salsa, all pulled off with military precision. With its clearly crafted themes and breathless energy, the piece is a crowd pleaser, but also a welcome chance for the troupe to smash the Cuban dance clichés and pull their interpretation of Cuban movement centre stage.
Reviewed at Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Touring until Sat 18 Mar.