the movement

The Movement – Vamos Cuba! Social Mover Review

Evelyn Francourt is one of four London-based Social Movers for The Movement  – an Arts Council funded partnership among three of the country’s leading dance venues; Sadler’s Wells, Birmingham Hippodrome and The Lowry, which aims to promote dance across the UK.

Here Evelyn tells us all about her experience of watching the Cuban dance extravaganza Vamos Cuba! at The Peacock Theatre. 

London is chilly and crisp at the moment – Autumn has kicked in and there is a whisper of Christmas in the air but on Tuesday 24th October for my second outing as a Social Mover for The Movement we were transported to the sultry climes of Havana, Cuba for the opening night of Vamos Cuba! –  an evening of uplifting, frothy dance, music and laughter.

Nilda Guerra’s Vamos Cuba! at the Peacock Theatre tells the story of a group of passengers stranded in Havana airport with the airline crew for the night after their flight to Miami is delayed. What unfolds is a collection of beautifully danced mini drama’s bringing romance, comedy, highs and lows told with a mixture of solo’s, duets and group ensembles.

The characters read from a slap-stick comedy; a not-quite-what-he-seems priest, a romantically involved pilot and air hostess, a flirtatious femme fatale, a porter, a doctor and a no-nonsense customs officer to name a few.

With two romantic story lines there are some beautiful duets however what is captivating about Vamos Cuba! is the shift in tempo, style and visuals. Duets are interspersed with group routines; there’s a mixture of Latin and Afro Cuban dance styles including Salsa, Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, Reggaeton plus Contemporary dance. We see costumes ranging from carnival head dresses to suitcases as props, all of which makes Vamos Cuba! a riot of colour and energy.

The second act adds a change of pace and tone with a dreamlike sequence that delves into Cuba’s cultural history. Dancer Katia Pèrez is elegant and statuesque and performs a beautifully choreographed piece that touches on Cuban history.

What set this show apart for me was the amazing live band; the two singers are onstage throughout the performance and weave into the narrative and it is the vocals and sass of Geidy Chapman that particularly stands out.

The evening ended with a salsa class. There is something about dancing en-masse, in sync with percussive music that is so uplifting that it stands as a reminder of how good dance is for the soul.

Vamos Cuba! is not your typical dance performance – it’s a snapshot of Cuban culture; a showcase of multi talented dancers; an evening of high energy live music; a sensory riot with an atmosphere so contagious that you will find yourself undulating on the dance floor to Salsa music afterwards.

Not bad for a Tuesday night in chilly London.

Vamos Cuba! is at the Peacock Theatre from 24th October until 11th November 2017. Book tickets here

Image credit: Johan Persson 

The Movement – Kyle Abraham Social Mover Review

Evelyn Francourt is one of four London-based Social Movers for The Movement – an Arts Council funded partnership among three of the country’s leading dance venues; Sadler’s Wells, Birmingham Hippodrome and The Lowry, which aims to promote dance across the UK. Here Evelyn tells us about her experience of attending Pavement, the debut performance of Kyle Abraham’s company Abraham.In.Motion on the Sadler’s Wells stage.

The stage is brightly lit and starkly adorned with a metal fence and a lone basketball hoop. The audience is reminded to switch off their phones and the usual pre theatre mantra at the start of a performance commences. However, as the lights have not dimmed there’s no visual cue that the performance is starting. In fact, the audience are still talking and bustling about when the first dancer enters the stage. The male dancer walks with attitude. To say he saunters or walks with ‘swag’ underplays the first of many gestural and pedestrian motions and motifs that authentically captures a people and a mood. Abraham’s choreographic style weaves colloquialisms seamlessly into ballet, contemporary and street dance to create a multi layered and nuanced dance vocabulary. The opening duet begins as a tentative greeting, moving into a body-locking sequence that becomes a friendly exchange.

The movement changes into a beautifully fluid ballet and undulating contemporary dance hybrid accompanied by a bluesy score. It halts jarringly as one male dancer is apprehended and restrained by the other. Here, Abraham introduces another recurring motif; the male lying face down, hands behind his back as though handcuffed – profoundly affecting, and instantly recognisable.

Pavement is inspired by the 1991 award winning film, Boyz N The Hood however it also feels personal. At the after-show talk Abraham spoke of how he drew from experiences attending school in Pittsburgh, culturally renowned for the rich Jazz heritage of the 1950’s however over the decades going into decline. Themes of community, identity, racial inequality and injustice are explored in Pavement. The movement vocabulary is exceptional, yes the dancers are interdisciplinary, mastering Ballet, Contemporary and Street dance style, however it is the motifs and gestures that intelligently add context and authenticity.

The quality of dance is exceptional; natural and human, also technical and graceful. Through the eclectic score Abraham’s adds even more layering to this work. Classic blues, opera, classical music with dialogue from the film, Boyz N The Hood creates a poignant collage. The close of Pavement is a lament; the stage lights are brightly lit again and the audience is shown an uncomfortably long, unflinchingly stark tableau of lifeless bodies piled on top of one another hands restrained. I have always marveled at art’s ability to make one think as well as entertain. Abraham shines a light on society with exquisite dance mastery.