Congratulations to DanceEast and Aldeburgh Music for bringing Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, the national contemporary-dance company of Cuba, last seen with Carlos Acosta at the London Coliseum, to a quiet corner of rural England. A converted malthouse on the edge of the East Anglian salt marshes would not seem the natural home of cutting-edge African-Hispanic dance, but this bold venture worked.
The company opened with Folia, choreographed by Jan Linkens, and performed for the first time in the UK. Folia is a kind of ancient carnival dancing, but this delightful and quirky work triggered many contrasting associations: slouching Neanderthal man, figures from a Greek vase and, thanks to the blood-orange costumes, sinister swarming insects.
This was followed by La Ecuacion (The Equation), choreographed by George Cespedes, who is also one of the company. Beginning with four dancers performing in the skeleton of a large cube in silence, it then exploded into light, noise and colour, maracas and marimbas giving way to the chugging techno beat of music by X Alfonso. This work, like the two that bracketed it, has a gently visceral effect rather than a cerebral one.
The second half was given over to the European premiere of a new piece by Raphael Bonachela. Originally called Arsenal of Democracy, the name of the album by Julia Wolfe from which most of the music is taken, this was changed to Demo_n/crazy to better reflect Cuban sensibilities.
This company's work seems to embody democracy, by celebrating not so much androgyny (with the men almost indistinguishable from the women and intermittently dancing with one another), as a vibrant world free of stereotypes, so this new name actually captures the essence of the piece better. It began with a girl singing plaintively in a spotlight, but this fragmented suddenly into violent dissonance, curiously punctuated later by the haunting refrain from "Ne Me Quitter Pas". It was, in a sense, demonic and crazy, but the hallmark of this company is its fluid, almost liquid, style, which hints at a quiet, understated eroticism. There was a certain amount of unsettling frenzy, but this segued seamlessly into a tranquil finale, as all 21 dancers unfurled themselves from slightly rocky headstands, their feet waving like grass in a gentle breeze.
The effect of all the pieces was both striking and special. And the full house, mostly of a certain age and schooled on Benjamin Britten and more mainstream fare, was clearly captivated.
Jeremy Walker, charity director, London
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