Danza Contemporanea de Cuba 2012
29th May - 09 June 2012

Press Reviews

Donald Hutera, The Times

“In 2010, when the Dance Consortium first imported this Havana-based troupe to the UK, the company earned nominations for three major dance awards. This hat-trick can be largely credited to an ensemble piece by its resident choreographer George Céspedes that has since become a company signature piece. His work returns as the climax of a triple bill, on tour till June 9, that showcases Danza Contemporánea de Cuba’s unique blend of desirability and discipline.

Set principally to a big, sexy and electronic reworking of the music of Mambo kingpin Perez Prado, Céspedes’ Mambo 3XX1 still merits raves. It’s a subversive piece of popular culture that asks what it means to undergo social (r)evolution. Twenty dancers locate the seminal rhythms that allow them to shift from cautious, self-regulated uncertainty to joyful liberation. They handle everything Céspedes dishes up—machinated ensemble moves, alternately agile and tender duets plus a spate of gut-busting clockwork quintets – with aplomb.

A bigger gamble on this tour was the world premiere of Sombrisa by the Israeli-born choreographer Itzik Galili. The culmination of a three-year research project between Danza Contemporánea and Newcastle Theatre Royal, Sombrisa (the title means smiling shadows) was inspired by the art of boxing. Although none of the 18 dancers jab or take any swipes at each other, all wear the bulbous gloves essential for Cuba’s national sport.

Sombrisa may not be a total knockout but it possesses a smart, eye-catching appeal and exemplifies Galili’s dynamic use of canonical patterns that treat bodies like undulant dominoes. In Natasja Lansen’s witty, black and white costumes the women resemble a pack of frilly-skirted French maids courted by men in button-down shirts, bowties and shorts. The lighting (by Yaron Abulafia) is sophisticated and the soundtrack – Steve Reich’s Drumming Part 1 – is madly driven.

The programme is rounded out by a clever jape called Carmen?! By Kenneth Kvarnström. Seven male dancers dot their best to invoke the spirit of the infamous femme fatale and her lovers as well as assorted barnyard animals. The result is rudely amusing, kinetic camp comedy.”


Neil Norman, The Stage

“Founded in 1959, Cuba’s leading contemporary dance company has had a profound influence on Cuban dance and dancers – including Carlos Acosta – although it is only in the last few years that it has had serious exposure in the UK.

This programme features two of its most popular works and one brand new premiere, all of which showcase the company’s singular attributes.”

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The Economist

“Out of context, the boxing glove looks peculiar. It lengthens the arm, yet brings it to an abrupt stump. It conveys a threat, but otherwise muffles the expressive powers of the hand. Boxing gloves hardly seem suited to the nuanced art of modern dance. So it is remarkable that “Sombrisa”, choreographed by Itzik Galili for the Danza Contemporánea de Cuba (DCC), works so beautifully. Clad in boxing gloves, 18 male and female dancers move with a fluidity that defies the staccato feint and thrust of the sport. They flow with a sexual charge against the percussive music of Steve Reich.”

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David Dougill, The Sunday Times

“One section develops (Mambo 3XX1) into a bubbling rough and tumble, and another focuses on tender duets, some same-sex with hesitant gestures of affection. A final massed dance rounds off the piece in a spirit of jubilation, which it also inspires in the audience.”

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Sunday Express

“The big noise here is the UK premie`re of Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili’s Sombrisa (co-commissioned by Newcastle Theatre Royal and Sadler’s Wells), a cunning piece of shadowplay in which all the dancers wear boxing gloves.

Weaving in and out of Yaron Abulafia’s chiaroscuro lighting patterns the dancers move in fluid formations, entering from darkness and disappearing like ghosts to the looped percussion of Steve Reich’s Drumming Part 1. In sharp contrast Kenneth Kvarnstrom’s colourful Carmen?! is an irreverent deconstruction of Merimee’s classic with seven men playing all the roles from bullfighters to cigar factory girls. Fast, funny and furious it is a poke in the eye of Latin machismo delivered with a cheeky grin.”

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Kelly Apter, The Scotsman

“ANYONE focusing on the “Cuba” part of this company’s name, rather than the “Contemporánea”, may have found it wanting. There’s no salsa, no high-heeled rumba – just some of the finest contemporary dancers touring the world today.

It’s the company’s ability to remain resolutely Cuban, yet embrace elements of the international choreographers who visit them, that makes Danza Contemporánea de Cuba so special.

The capacity to adapt, born largely out of necessity, also makes these dancers ready for anything – including tricky lifts and catches wearing boxing gloves, as they do in Israeli-born Itzik Galili’s Sombrisa.”

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Mary Brennan, The Herald Scotland

“Nothing in this first-ever Scottish performance by Danza Contemporanea de Cuba (DCC) is quite what you would expect – and that, along with the athletic energy and unstinting versatility of the dancers, makes this programme a lively introduction to a thoroughly likeable company.

Sombrisa, Itzik Galili’s new commission, sends everyone into combat against the pounding rhythms of Steve Reich’s Drumming Part I wearing … boxing gloves. Any contact between the sexes is, until the final, a rather tender moment when the gloves come off, devoid of hands-on touching. Yet this doesn’t really feel like any battle of the sexes. The lighting design, with descents into moody darkness, hints at more than a sporting workout but the repetitive motifs and playground games of leap-frog are outshone by the choreographic invention and social commentary in Mambo 3XXI by DCC’s George Cespedes.”

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Alan Geary, The Nottingham Post

“Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, we’re informed, are the top dance company in that country. This two-hour show might well have had you wondering if they’re one of the best in the world.”

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Clifford Bishop, Evening Standard

“Danza Contemporánea de Cuba is roughly as old as Castro’s revolution, and currently in rather better shape. True, the costumes and sets, if you can call black curtains a set, are on the threadbare side of minimalist, but after a recent spate of over-designed, high-budget debacles on the London stage it is refreshing to see dance that is mostly about dancing.”

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Sanjoy Roy, The Guardian

“I found Sombrisa, by Netherlands-based Israeli Itzik Galili, the most captivating piece. Its pattering percussion score (Steve Reich’s Drumming) offers the choreography more texture than foothold, so Galili has to construct his own compositional framework. This he does beautifully, with lines of male and female dancers merging, emerging and sometimes crossing to generate fleeting clusters and duets. Shifting pools and strips of light make the forms and figures seem to appear and vanish. The style is limber but low-key, driven more by flow than force; startlingly, the dancers all wear boxing gloves, which impart an unusual heft and swing to every move. It’s a piece that unfolds rather than goes anywhere, but watching it happen is a pleasure….”

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