Cuba's got talent – that much is established. Any country of only 11 million souls that can produce Carlos Acosta and field more than 50 dance companies, one of them world-renowned, does not have a lot left to prove.
And the money men are on to it now. Ballet Revolucion comes "direct from Cuba" by way of a tour of Australia, homeland of one of its two choreographers, the nicely named Aaron Cash, an original Tap Dog and the face of Johnny Walker whisky. "International money-spinner" is stamped all over this packing-crate of a show, from its musical score covering pop hits from Beyoncé, Shakira and their like, to its bran tub of dance styles, jazz hands mixed with body popping, bump and grind, salsa, mambo and acrobatics, larded with MTV attitude and topped off with oddments of classical ballet, as if this will make it all add up.
The costumes, likewise, range freely from artily holed Lycra to fluorescent T-shirts to strippergram glam, sometimes set against a backdrop of painterly brushstrokes, or against what looks like an underground cave or mine-shaft. At the back of this cave stand the band, a smattering of Cuban artists – a bored-looking drummer, a fiend on congas, a lead guitarist who is flinging himself on his knees centre stage within 10 minutes, and a glorious trumpeter. But they've hired local vocalists – one from east London, the other from Leeds – which inevitably makes the sound less particular, more bland.
There's an attempt to suggest round-the-world travel, but the essentials are fudged. The hummable bit of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez heralds what at first looks to be a flamenco sequence, with couples saucily straddling chairs, but ends up all backbends and chest-heaving. A tango number is bizarrely danced by ballet girls in point shoes.
Clearly, Ballet Revolucion is no respecter of cultural boundaries, not to mention ballet, or revolutions. To which revolution does the title refer, precisely? One hopes it might be the chance for talented young Cubans to earn a decent wage for their efforts, but there's no guarantee of that.
The sheer verve of these performers is a reason to see the show, that and their not inconsiderable technique, but the material is unworthy of them. The men in particular are demon spinners. One comes on repeatedly to pirouette while leaning forward on a raised knee, holding his chin like Rodin's thinker. It's funny, and smart, gone in a flash. Others, their foot-long dreadlocks flying, could power a factory with their spins. And what of the bare-chested wannabe prince who strips to tiny trunks to run through the gamut of ballet's leaps and spins to the rock thrash of "Purple Rain". Such poise, such potential, so much straw in the wind.
To 19 May (0844 412 4322)
Not to be confused with their compatriots at the Peacock , the irrepressible Danza Contemporanea de Cuba are back for a second UK tour. Their first, in 2010, saw resident choreographer George Cespedes nominated for an Olivier award for the electrifying Mambo 3XXI, a work reprised this time. Birmingham Hippodrome (Tue and Wed), Snape Maltings (Fri and Sat) and tour.Reuse content