EVERY country has its own set of complexities, but it’s fair to say Cuba is more dichotomous than most. On the one hand there’s the vibrancy and freedom of its cultural life, but living in a Communist state comes with a certain rigidity. Both of these elements are perfectly captured in George Céspedes’ multiple award-winning work, Matria Etnocentra.
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ****
The closer and, judging by audience reaction, the highlight of the company’s triple-bill, Céspedes’ piece saw 24 dancers move with military precision. Booted feet marched on the spot, synchronised arms chopped through the air as one and not a single beat was dropped. Then, army fatigue-style clothing was swapped for the Cuban flag colours of red, white and blue and a sense of freedom prevailed, to glorious effect. You can only wonder how many hours this took to rehearse, and be thankful they went to the effort.
If only the same could be said for Theo Clinkard’s The Listening Room, but there was little to be thankful for here. Wearing headphones playing a range of music from Beyoncé to Vivaldi, the dancers moved around the stage, while we listened to an entirely different soundtrack by Steve Reich. An inspired idea yes, but with little accessible movement to back it up, it was hard to endure.
Like Céspedes, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa knows exactly how to tap into the Cuban way of life and Reversible, her fascinating exploration of gender, was sublimely sensual, provocative and beautifully danced.