As Cuba opens its doors to the world, dance show Vamos Cuba! (Let’s go Cuba!) hosted in London’s Sadler’s Wells undoubtedly comes with high expectations.
The performance shouted energy, humour, passion, colourfulness and sexiness, yet unfortunately did little to meet those expectations…
Choreographed by Cuban dancer and director Nilda Guerra, the show’s narrative takes place at Havana airport, where the lives of delayed travellers cross and intertwine.
The setting of Havana airport plays a symbolic role, underlining Cubans’ dream for travel and the world’s mounting interest in the Caribbean island.
The stories that unfold then are rather superficial; fleeting romances burgeon and die, photos and memories are shared, a cockroach crawls out of a suitcase and other acts make up a tale that lacks head or tail.
Amidst the chaotic plot, Nilda Guerra nevertheless manages to make one thing clear: music and dance are the axiom of Cuban life. This is how Cubans define themselves, how they turn feelings into life, how they flavour their daily lives.
Salsa, cha-cha-cha, rumba, mambo, bolero and reggaeton make up for a very colourful palette of music and dance in Guerra’s show.
“In Cuba everybody dances, people love to dance and sing or both together – this is the spirit of Cuba”, Nilda Guerra explains.
Regrettably, dance talent on stage was nowhere near the reputation Cuban dancers carry – I have seen better performances in London’s informal salsa scene, for example.
Although the ‘wow’ element was absent in dancing, it was definitely there in music. The live band, with its leading vocalists Geydi Chapman and Maikel Ante, was just superb, making it hard not to gesticulate to its cheerful rhythms.
True, Vamos Cuba! did not deliver as well as I had wished it to, but it still provided for a very strong statement: Cuba’s dancing and musical traditions survived decades of economic restrictions and political turmoil, still bursting with vivacity and ambition and let’s not forget, influencing many other countries’ own dance and music cultures. Cubans’ love for dance and music endures no matter what.
Catch Vamos Cuba! at Sadler’s Wells, London, Tuesday 26th of July – Sunday 21 August 2016.
By Farah Hesdin.