Danza Contemporanea de Cuba review at Barbican, London – ‘exquisitely danced’


A review by Anna Winter for The Stage.

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba comprises performers with stupendous technique. The company also displays a fine-tuned sense of drama and exuberance in their latest non-narrative triple bill.

The evening begins with Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Reversible, a work that teases at gender roles with open sensuality and sensitivity. To a sparse drum beat, two huddles of dancers – one male and one female – each hold an individual aloft like talismans.

What ensues is a kind of bare-breasted mating ritual, during which the chosen couple’s bodies intricately entwine with sinuous suppleness. The ensemble women wear the trousers here while the men sport kilts, but when a pair attempt to swap garments the bloke stumbles and falters. Later encounters brim with playful pep, combative provocations and gentle yearning.

In Theo Clinkard’s The Listening Room the dancers enjoy an iPod disco to a Steve Reich score that’s sometimes blasted into the auditorium. The dancers throw interpretative shapes in silence or plunge through loose-limbed ribbons of motion in beautifully-crafted, ever-changing formations. While the work becomes a little tedious in parts, the sheer joy of bounding ensemble motion shines through.

Matria Etnocentra, by Cuban choreographer George Cespedes, passes sterner socio-political comment. It marries apparently jubilant movement – knee-slapping, shoulder rolls and shimmying – to militarised metronome timing and stomping belligerence. Snaking salsa duets are imbued with robotic stiffness and blank facial expressions. This is a stellar company and it’s a real privilege to see it perform.

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