Perhaps one of the fascinating things about dance performance is the relationship of the dancers’ movements to the beat of the music. An exciting performance is far less about its dancers being “in time”, than the pleasure and play they produce by being out of time. Danza Contemporánea de Cuba’s performance tonight illustrates this well. They appear to have a far more “relaxed” (for want of a better word) feeling for the beat than we tend to see in most European companies. It is something that seems flow from their roots: something instinctive and quintessentially Cuban.
The first piece in tonight’s programme, Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle López Ochoa’s Reversible, is an exploration of human identity, human interactions and our preconceptions surrounding gender. It begins rather primal and raw—a ritualised confrontation of difference—but becomes a celebration of human similarities, ending in beautiful unity.
This is followed by the highlight of this evening, Theo Clinkard’s The Listening Room, an exciting, somewhat experimental work, which is full of amazing, vibrant power. While the audience hear Steve Reich’s Variations for Vibes, Pianos and Strings over the house sound system, the dancers listen to a very diverse range of music and text on headphones: the audience have no idea what the dancers are hearing.
Although this sounds like a recipe for disaster and mayhem, Clinkard’s clever structuring creates a tight, highly satisfying work, while allowing the dancers a great deal of freedom: they are able to tap down into the core of their creative energy. Furthermore, with the mind’s propensity for creating order, we cannot help but make what we see on stage fit to the music we hear, even its nuances.
The programme ends with Matria Etnocentra by the company’s resident choreographer and dancer, George Céspedes. Whereas the dancers’ energy seems to explode in The Listening Room, in Matria Etnocentra it is constrained geometrically, creating more of an implosion. It juxtaposes two important aspects of Cuban history, military presence and popular dance, concluding in a dynamic fusion of styles presented in a cascade of changing shapes. This a great finale to a very well programmed evening.