By Amelda J Dangerfield
Date / Venue: Wednesday June 17th, 2015 - Civic Theatre
Although lesser known than its famous cigars and rum making; ballet is an equally renowned Cuban export. In a country where dancers are held in huge esteem and earn roughly as much as doctors, a seemingly never-ending stream of Cuban classical and contemporary dance talent is represented in most prominent international ballet companies. Watching Ballet Revolución erupting on stage at Auckland's Civic Theatrein a fusion of contemporary, ballet, street and hip hop dance, it seems there will be Cuban talent dominating the world stage for many years to come.
The latest tour of Ballet Revolución begins with a deceptively casual set up, a small number of dancers quietly going through a warm up drill in tights, hoodies and sweats. Gradually the stage is populated, the dancers begin to synchronise their movements, and gauze curtain lifts to reveal an eight piece live Cuban band. Graduating into an impressively fast and rhythmic conga drum solo, this is the first glimpse of the band that will drive much of the explosive and physical 2 hours to come. It certainly isn't the sort of classical choreography your grandmother might expect, and among perfectly tuned scenes there were a few that could have been left out to strengthen the overall offering, but Ballet Revolución offered wave after wave of bodies on stage in a display of exceptional talent and athleticism. This must be the hardest working company in dance.
Raw and at times emotionally intense ballet scenes - such as the beautiful chair-based dance depicting the beginnings and end of a romantic relationship - are cut with flashy and energetic performances that amaze with their strength and frenetic leaps. Occasionally the timing was off and the company didn't quite work together as one, but individually the dancers shone, offering up every difficult high leap and pirouette in the book to dazzle and impress a captivated audience. Unlike classical ballet, in the Ballet Revolución men are stars of the show. With an energy, sexuality and choreography tuned to masculine strength and form, a distinctly Cuban machismo was allowed to bloom. At times the male dancers prowled the stage like lions, waiting for their opportunity to shine. Their costumes were tight and often shirtless, all the better to show off perfectly honed bodies, extended limbs and fluid Latin style. Yanier Gómez Noda offered a particularly outstanding grand pirouette to close the performance. The women, however, matched the men physically, with rock hard bodies and a sass of their own. Like the men, they were distinctively individual and allowed a refreshing diversity in height, look and style than is usual in classical ballet.
Two hours of solid dance and ferocious energy and athleticism left the audience staggered, and offered up one of the few standing ovations I've ever seen in contemporary dance. Don't miss your chance to be astonished at the physicality and structured abandon offered by the Ballet Revolución. You won't regret it.