While The Wedding Dance may not be "strictly salsa", it's worth remembering that Baz Luhrmann's cinematic success Strictly Ballroom began life as a stage play. Set partly in a salsa class in London, with a shift to present-day Cuba, The Wedding Dance - a co-production between Bolton Octagon and the inventive Nitro theatre company - has all the makings of a colourful film. Yet it would work better with a few bridging shots covering leaps in time and place. The slightly preposterous story of a serial seducer unfolds disjointedly, its thin plot weighed down by didactic detail on Cuban history, the co-operative movement and moral injustice.
Projected images of the ritual dance of the Orisha faith haunt the day-to-day affairs of José, casting a shadow over his fancy footwork. He's an emigré who has escaped Castro's Cuba for London. Once unleashed on the salsa scene, José abandons his medical studies and settles instead for a life of destructive sexual entanglements with his female dance students. Enter innocent Miranda (Madeline Appiah), intent on amusing her wedding guests with a saucy snatch of salsa, and another seduction proves irresistible to José.
The minimalist, bare-floored staging gives the aura of a rehearsal room, appropriate enough for the framing device of salsa lessons given by José and his business partner, Kathleen (Troy Titus-Adams). The relationship between this pair, apart from professional interdependency, is never made quite clear - like much in this show that goes through the motions rather than stirring the emotions. The dialogue is sometimes so stilted that perhaps David Gyasi as José - cast more for his dancing, surely, than his acting - muffles his words out of embarrassment.
Written and directed by Felix Cross, and choreographed and co-directed by Debra Michaels, The Wedding Dance - which spirals to a tragic, if unconvincing, conclusion - reserves its passion for the music and the dancing. The real success is Alex Wilson's sizzling score, realised on tape by an 11-strong band conveying a smoky sensuousness and menace. And the supporting cast of actor-dancers, several recruited from Havana, seems scarcely to put a foot wrong.
To 3 March (01204 520661), then touring to 7 April (www.nitro.co.uk)Reuse content