100% Cuban: Liberto / Hybrid / Paysage, soudain, la nuit / Impronta / De Punta a Cabo

Choreography Raúl Reinoso, Norge Cedeño and Thais Suárez, Pontus Lidberg, Maria Rovira, Alexis Fernandez (Maca) and Yaday Ponce
Acosta Danza
Sadler's Wells

Acosta Danza in Da Punta a Cabo Credit: Yuris Norido
Acosta Danza in Paysage, soudain, la nuit Credit: Buby Bode
Acosta Danza in Paysage, soudain, la nuit Credit: Johan Persson
Zeleidy Crespo in Impronta Credit: Manuel Vason
Acosta Danza (Laura Rodríguez and Mario Sergio Elías) in Paysage, soudain, la nuit Credit: Enrique (Kike) Smith
Acosta Danza (Mario Sergio Elías) in Paysage, soudain, la nuit Credit: Yuris Norido
Acosta Danza in Liberto, dancer Zeleidy Crespo Credit: Hugo Glendinning
Acosta Danza in De Punta a Cabo Credit: Hugo Glendinning
Acosta Danza in De Punta a Cabo Credit: Hugo Glendinning
Acosta Danza in Hybrid Credit: Hugo Glendinning

The joy, the life-giving energy of dance, its expressiveness, its musicality, doesn't come better than this—oh to be young again. Even the danced curtain call is joyous. Much credit to Carlos Acosta who founded the company in 2015, and much credit to his eager to please dancers—some I spot from their previous tour here, and plenty of new faces, in two pieces seen in 2020 and three UK premières. Not too long, only 100 minutes with interval—a fabulous shot in the arm and music to get old and young bones a-jiggling.

Two new pieces open proceedings, Liberto (17 minutes) and Hybrid (24 minutes). Liberto by dancer Raúl Reinoso is ostensibly about breaking the bonds of slavery, its Afro-Cuban roots: a runaway slave (Mario Sergio Elías) snapping his metaphorical puppet strings, tearing down the chain mesh that ensnares him like a beast. He runs, somersaults, tumbles, sees a woman (Zeleidy Crespo), but initially they are not on the stage together. He runs off, she appears—both dance powerful solos—until they meet in acrobatic duet. Movement is a mix of folk and contemporary. The light is crepuscular, then red; the music by Pepe Gavrilando is full of layered beats, at times anxious, troubled, and suspenseful. Who is she—a vision? Seems she’s a Yoruba goddess in high crown and long skirt, the light at the end of his tunnel—he follows her blindly.

Norge Cedeño and Thais Suárez’s Hybrid is for a group of ten, five couples, who in Celia Ledón’s grey and red futuristic costumes, dance a storm—are we in Dune territory? Red strips on the floor, red ropes dangle, red lights dazzle. Is life a spaceship? Jenny Peña and Randy Araujo’s propulsive music is certainly a cinematic score. Heavy beats and writhing bodies, stand-offs and acrobatic duets, there is a narrative thread, apparently inspired by the myth of Sisyphus, though I don't get that. I wonder if they are cells, organisms, or freedom fighters. Make of it what you will, but the dancing and the dancers are full on.

After the interval comes Pontus Lidberg’s lovely, inspiring, seventeen-minute Paysage, soudain, la nuit. Eleven happy farm workers relax, even doze, after a hard day’s labour, dance away the dust of the day under the day’s dying light. From dusk to dawn they let go, enjoy the cool of the night. Leo Brouwer "Cuban Landscape with Rumba" and Stefan Levin’s "Cuban Landscape" is happy music, helping to slough off weariness and regenerate instinctive wellbeing.

Maria Rovira’s seven-minute Impronta is also familiar. Impronta means footprint, and my goodness did limber-bodied Zeleidy Crespo leave a footprint on the mind in 2020, as she does now—this gets the loudest applause. A long-limbed contortionist in an elegant blue silk dress, its swishes part of the movement vocabulary, she mesmerises, a butterfly and a temple dancer in one, under bright lights. Gavilando’s music again is invigorating.

And finally, a love letter to Havana from 2016—Alexis Fernandez (Maca) and Yaday Ponce’s eighteen-minute De Punta a Cabo—to the Malecón, Havana’s sea wall, a meeting place for social transaction, for letting off steam, for show-off dancing. All kinds of dancing, there are even three girls on pointes—a sketch of cultural possibilities, rich in talent and motivation, of communality. If you’ve seen Acosta’s autobiographical film, Yuli, you’ll recognise the filmed back-projection, or maybe you’ve been. I have and would love to go again. But this will have to do.

The dancers in sneakers and everyday casual wear you see in the filmstrip are here in front of us—double dose magic. The music (Kumar, Kike Wolf—from Beautiful Cuban by José White and Omar Sosa) is jazzy, cool; fourteen bodies throb to its pulsating beats. There are clouds and sunny days, evening skies and dawns. There are girl classical ballet moves and fouettés, couples pairing off, group revels, bongo drums and soft percussion, and invention. Hot, they are hot in every sense—they strip down to flesh-coloured underwear—it’s been a long night. They sit and watch themselves on that wall in the film. A mirage or what…

But they are not spent—the curtain call is dynamic and full of youthful allure and charisma. They (Alejandro Silva, Amisaday Naara, Arelys Hernández, Chay Torres, Enrique Corrales, Laura Rodríguez, Liliana Menéndez, Marco Palomino, Mario Sergio Elías, Patricia Torres, Penélope Morejon, Raúl Reinoso, Yasser Domínguez, Zeleidy Crespo) have more than served the choreography; they have outdone and outshone it. In just six years, Acosta’s young company has worked wonders.

Presented by Dance Consortium and part of Sadler’s Wells Well Seasoned programme celebrating Black Dance, 100% Cuban will tour to Nottingham, Salford, Hull, Canterbury, and Plymouth.

Reviewer: Vera Liber