Last Updated on February 11, 2022
A Sizzling Salsa-influenced Celebration at Sadler’s Wells
Dance superstar Carlos Acosta’s Havana-based company Acosta Danza has returned to the UK with a thrilling new show, a mixed bill of five works ‘all infused with Cuba’s rich music and dance influences.’ 100% Cuban features UK premieres from three exciting young Cuban choreographers – Liberto by Raúl Reinoso, Hybrid by Norge Cedeno Raffo and De Punta a Cabo by Alexis Fernandez (Maca). Also in the programme are two big hits from the 2020 UK tour – Paysage, soudain, la nuit by Sweden’s Pontus Lidberg and Impronta by Spanish choreographer Maria Rovira.
The show opens with Acosta Danza dancer Raúl Reinoso’s Liberto, created in 2020 for two dancers from the company, Zeleidy Crespo and Mario Sergio Elias. As with much of the programme, Reinoso’s choreography is a fully integrated blend of both folk and contemporary dance styles, and there are even nods to Argentinian tango and Indian classical dance. The piece opens with a low synth drone and a strobe effect turning Mario Sergio Elias into a luminous, shimmering object. He is a runaway slave who fights for his right to liberty, falling in love with the extraordinary along the way and becoming recaptured in a net in a visceral scene of struggle. The character finally reaching a state of autonomy when Crespo returns, resplendent as a Yoruba goddess. Mario Sergio Elias is all energy, with leaps, jumps, floor rolls and twists defining his part alongside a sensual and more balletic entanglement with Zeleidy Crespo. Crespo has an extraordinary body with long extended limbs that allow her to twist into the most beautiful shapes, sometimes rooted to the spot and sometimes mobile, moving with a panther-like grace. The score is by José V Gavilondo who blends the synthetic with the eeriness of a waterphone and the organic emotion of cellos. Liberto is an enthralling and virtuosic piece that clearly affected the Sadler’s Wells crowd.
The first half ended with Norge Cedeno Raffo’s Hybrid, a new commission for the company’s twelve dancers. Raffo spent ten years as a principal dancer and choreographer for Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, Raffo then becoming artistic director and principal choreographer of the Cuban Company OtroLado. The piece is impressionistic and seems to take its theme from French philosopher Albert Camus’ absurdist take on the Myth of Sisyphus (Sisyphus keeps pushing a huge rock up a hill and each time the rock rolls back down). For Camus, the irrationality of the human struggle is both absurd and transcendent. Hybrid’s staging is dominated by a red letter V, maybe representing ‘Venceramos’ or we shall overcome, a key word in Latin American liberation theology. The two prone bodies of the soloists are at the front of the stage as the curtain opens, one attached to a hanging rope, as Jenny Peña and Randy Araujo’s throbbing industrial techno soundtrack propelled by tribal drums fills the auditorium. The dancer struggles for freedom with the two soloists and the collective body of the rest of the company coalescing and then splitting up into more individuated movement. There is a proud, energetic salsa finale after which the company stand in a row with hands interlocked collapsing in a heap one by one with a balletic pas de deux coda ending in a spectacular leap of the company. It’s an arresting representation of the very human struggle that life in Cuba is with the individual and collective playing an equal part in that process.
If the first half of the programme is about struggle then the second is a more celebratory space. Pontus Lidberg’s Paysage, Soudain, la Nuit is a gorgeously ethereal celebration of youth ‘set in the magic hours between twilight and dawn’. The dancers, dressed in light colours, are full of vitality and hope. With extended limbs moving in circular motions, they morph into different configurations in front of Elizabet Cerviño’s dreamlike video backdrop of grasslands. Again, the soundtrack is a trad/contemporary mashup with the systems music influenced plucked strings and techno bleeps by composers Leo Brouwer and Stefan Levin giving momentum.
Zeleidy Crespo returns for the solo Impronta, created for her by Spanish choreographer Maria Rovira with music by José V Gavilondo. Crespo was trained in the discipline of traditional Cuban dance styles which are explored in a more contemporary context in this piece. She has an extraordinarily powerful presence with a finely-toned physicality and a profound sense of her own profile. Dressed in a pleated turquoise crepe de chine dress Crespo owns the stage creating striking poses and movements eventually picking up her skirt bringing some untamed flamenco gypsy passion to the stage.
The final work in this wonderful evening of dancing is De Punta a Cabo, created by Alexis Fernández (Maca) for Acosta Danza’s debut season in 2016. An evocative video backdrop of the Malecón, the sea wall stretching for eight kilometres along the Havana coastline, conjures up the spirit of the place that young people go to in the evening to escape the heat, hang out with friends and make love. The twelve dancers are part of the world of the video interacting with it and giving an authentic sense of what it is to be young in that most contradictory of the Caribbean islands. There is romance, drama and celebration being played out in front of us. Girls walk along the wall en pointe whilst boys jam along on the congas with the video percussion unit. The score, composed by music Kumar, Kike Wolf and Omar Sosa, starts off with skittering hi-hats moving into a jazzy hip-hop vein that then turns into a full-on salsa party with the whole company clapping, flipping, pirouetting and somersaulting to the clave-driven music in a joyous ensemble finale.
We loved Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘Curated by Carlos’ show at Sadler’s Wells (see our review) and his contemporary dance company’s wonderful celebration of its Cuban identity is sure to be a big hit with audiences. Listings are below with the tour kicking off Wednesday 9 – Saturday 12 February at 7.30pm, Sadler’s Wells Theatre.
Listings Acosta Danza 100% Cuban
Wednesday 9 – Saturday 12 February at 7.30 pm Sadler’s Wells Theatre, LONDON Rosebery Ave, London EC1R 4TN Tickets: 020 7863 8000 / www.sadlerswells.com
Tuesday 15 & Wednesday 16 February at 7.30 pm Royal Concert Hall, NOTTINGHAM Theatre Square, Nottingham NG1 5ND Tickets: 0115 989 5555 / www.trch.co.uk
Tuesday 22 & Wednesday 23 February at 7.30 pm The Lowry, SALFORD Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ Tickets: 0343 208 6000 / www.thelowry.com
Friday 25 & Saturday 26 February at 7.30 pm HULL New Theatre Kingston Square, Hull HU1 3HF Tickets: 01482 300306 / www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Tuesday 1 & Wednesday 2 March at 7.30 pm The Marlowe Theatre CANTERBURY The Friars, Canterbury CT1 2AS Tickets: 01227 787787 / www.marlowetheatre.com
Friday 4 & Saturday 5 March at 7.30 pm Theatre Royal PLYMOUTH Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 2TR Tickets: 01752 267222 / www.theatreroyal.com