The title of the show – Ballet Revolución – says it all. Ballet is the supporting structure of this energetic production, but it has been revolutionised with a modern mash up of explosive Cuban street dance, salsa, acrobatics and hip hop.
Two pointe dancers opened the show with a classical number, but there was something very different about these dancers. Their long limbs were impossibly muscly and they seamlessly morphed into street dancers at the drop of a hat.
The company is made up of 20 Cuban dancers, whose energy and athletic performance is stunning to watch. Most of the dancers are graduates of Cuba’s famous Escuela Nacional de Arte and demonstrate their versatility with different dance styles. Choreographed by Australian Aaron Case and Cuban Rocian Gonzalez Chavez, the production captures the distinctive flavour of Cuban life, from the modern dance styles of street and club, to the more historical styles of salsa and mambo.
While there is no plot to the show and the choreography appeared amateur at times, the performance is carried mainly by the extreme athleticism of the dancers. Some of the dancers weren’t perfect in timing or technique, but leapt, tumbled, pirouetted and shimmied with gusto and I could not fault their enthusiasm or charisma. I could not take my eyes off dancer Jesus Elias Almenares, who was plainly loving every second on stage.
An eight-piece live band was a highlight, but for some reason they were hidden in darkness at the back of the stage for half of the show. Such talent and music should be celebrated! However, it did mean that the dancer’s movements were first and foremost the focus of the audience. The band played salsa beats, tango melodies and then every now and again, we’d get their groovy versions of pop hits by Beyonce, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez. Congo player Luis Palacios Galvez performed a hand-blurringly fast solo, which well and truly earned their 20 minute intermission.
The second half of Ballet Revolución was much stronger than the first, as the dancers didn’t take themselves so seriously and looked like they were having a bloody great time. There were cheeky moments that the audience loved, and the male dancers revelled in the audience’s reaction when they took their shirts off to show off their rippling muscles.
I’m booking flights to Cuba now.
Ballet Revolución is on at Her Majesty’s Theatre until July 27.