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100% Cuban

Raul Reinoso, Norge Cedeno, Pontus Lidberg, Maria Rovira, Alexis Fernandez (Maca)

Acosta Danza,

The Lowry, Salford (and touring)

February 22-23, 2022; 2 hrs

Acosta Dana in De Punta a Cabo.  All pics: Hugh Glendinning
Acosta Danza in De Punta a Cabo. All pics: Hugo Glendinning

Just two years ago, audiences at The Lowry were waiting for the arrival of a touring show by Acosta Danza, Carlos Acosta’s self-created company of young dancers from his homeland, Cuba.

They’d been before (in 2017), and expectations were high.

The tour began that spring, but never made it to Salford. Covid 19 saw to that, and the company only just got on to a plane back home.Now they’re back – as they were dancing before they were so rudely interrupted – thanks to the UK’s Dance Consortium of 18 big theatres. There are 14 in the troupe, and three of the pieces are being seen for the first time in the UK.

The title of the evening is 100% Cuban, and it all does pretty much what it says on the tin. Not that only Cuban choreographers are involved – but everything is infused with the spirit of Cuba.

Compare it with the contemporary dance we often see from European or transatlantic origins, and the striking thing is that there’s catchy rhythm everywhere. I don’t think there’s an item on the bill that doesn’t have a good proportion of regular, metrical counts in it, sometimes pounding, sometimes sinuous and sensuous.

It probably helps to prove the old joke that “twirlies” (dancers) never need to learn to count up any higher than eight. Who would want them to?

Raúl Reinoso’s Liberto opens the evening, a duo about slavery and freedom, with a story you have to make up for yourself but some clear pointers as to where it’s coming from. The spirit of African forefathers, of suffering and triumph, is there personified, as a slave (almost visibly in a straitjacket) struggles to find his vision. The tender central pas de deux was beautifully danced last night by Mario Sergio Elias and Zeleidy Crespo.

A second new piece by a Cuban – Norge Cedeno – was Hybrid, for 10 dancers, apparently inspired by the myth of Sisyphus, in the sense that it demonstrates how to “exhaust the limits of the possible”. It exhausts anyone just to watch, as (it seems) the movement is showing how every step forward is followed by a step back, or going one way by going the opposite: it’s varied in mood, but finally very positive, exuberant and loud, and the language is original and full of irresistible life.

After the interval comes Paysage, soudain, la nuit, an item by the Swedish dance maker Pontus Lidberg from the 2020 tour brought back for this one. The title tells the story – we see a folksy daylight gathering, followed by a sudden switch to night sky and the same 11 people dancing the night away. The movement changes subtly from its graceful opening to the infectious and lively second stage, and there’s a classical purity in its celebration of pulse and cross-rhythm (very Cuban in its rumba basis).

Impronta is a solo performed by Zeleidy Crespo and created by the Spanish choreographer Maria Rovira – a vehicle for her extraordinary suppleness – and leads to the finale, De Punta a Cabo, which goes back to 2016 and the new company’s debut performance on its home ground (though this is its first outing in the UK). It’s done to a filmed backdrop made by the company (a larger group then) and again tells a story of dancing by day and night, this time at the seaside outside Havana. This one’s a real crowd pleaser and earned the 14 an ecstatic reception.

Link info and tickets here


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