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Danza Contemporanea de Cuba – Milton Keynes Theatre

Director: Miguel A Iglesias

Choreographers: George Céspedes, Kenneth Kvarnström, Itzik Galili

Reviewer: Maggie Constable


Well, you are certainly not going to get sunshine the way this summer is panning out but you will most definitely get that warm, fuzzy feeling you so cherish from Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at Milton Keynes theatre tonight and tomorrow! Dance Consortium, a group of venues which all share a passion for encouraging more people to see contemporary dance from different parts of the world, presented this internationally renowned company at Milton Keynes for the first time ever. With their combination of Afro-Caribbean and Spanish soul, the result is a show which was electrifyingly dynamic, and full of wonderful Cuban sensuality, mystery, raw emotions and fun.

To begin this evening’s programme we were treated to the World Premiere of Sombrisa, by award-winning choreographer Itzik Galili, whose influence on contemporary dance is both renowned and widespread. His latest piece, Sombrisa, has been inspired by boxing, Cuba’s national sport. Danced to the rhythm of Steve Reich’s Drumming Part 1, this dance is at times nothing short of mesmerising with its ebbs and flows of movement cleverly representing the way any boxing match might go. The dancing is powerful and athletic, the choreography clever in the way it works with the excellent drums and uses repetition to give us the feel of sparring. I love the way the lighting (Yaron Abulafia) is used to incredibly sharp effect, which is very much an aspect of the way Galili works. The lights become part of the dance, and give us superb contrasts between styles and pace of movement, the dark and the light. My only query about this dance is its length.

Choreographed by Kenneth Kvarnström, the Director of Helsinki Dance Company, Carmen! is a clever, tres modern interpretation, performed to Bizet’s evocative score, arranged by Rodion Shchedrin. This is the mainly light and fluffy part of the entertainment with fantastic choreography of the arms and great use of gestures and facial expressions. It makes a good contrast to the first piece and most assuredly gives us the sunny, summer feeling. It is funny and very witty, the arrangement of the music really working well with the humour. This one really got the audience going. George Céspedes, who choreographed the following dance, actually dances in this one.

Lastly, we had the chance to see the outstanding hit of 2010’s tour, George Céspedes’ Olivier Award nominated Mambo 3XXI, which won over audiences right across the UK with its mélange of the street, classical dance and musical theatre style. The start reminds me of the opening scenes in West Side Story, with the feel of tensions and menace on the streets. Mambo 3XX1 is quintessential Cuba with such exuberance and energy. It is almost difficult to keep up with the pace, trying to see all the different groups moving. The manner in which the dancers glide in and out of groups and across each other is spectacular and such synchronization! A perfect end to the show.

I cannot name any dancers in particular because they were all very talented, but the seven men who danced in all three pieces must be super-human!

An excellent way to pass a somewhat chilly summer evening in Milton Keynes. I left with a glow.

Runs until 7 June 12

Picture: Justin Nicholas


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