Friday 10 June 2016

Ballet Revolucion - Dance Review

What: Ballet Revolucion
When:  July 1 - 5
Where: Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre
Choreographed by:  Aaron Cash and Roclan Gonzalez Chavez
Musical Direction by: Osmar Salazar Hernandez
Performed by: Marcos Brito, Yeleny Camacho, Nadiezhda Carbonell, Leidy Castillo, Rayhner Echegoy, Daneilla Espallargas, Alejandro Fernandez, Burke Foster, Luis Galvez, Yasset Garciarena, Lianett Gonzalez, Jenny Martinez, Ariel Mejica, Danilo Meneses, Julio Miranda, Yanier Noda, Noybel Reyes, Thommy Rojas, Yasser Rojas, Barbara Sanchez, Wulleys Silveira, Yuniet Solis, Keyvin Tamayo, Oscar Valle, and Yasim Veranes.
Costumes by:  Jorge Gonzalez
Lighting by:  Michael Buenen
Sound by: Graham Fraser

Ballet Revolucion was first conceived five years ago by the producers of Lady Salsa and The Kings of Salsa.  Ballet Revolucion first toured Australia in 2013 and it is back this year to do it all again.  Currently performing in the State Theatre, the troupe will be performing in Frankston next if you miss it this week.

Whilst the show is billed as a Cuban extravaganza of dance, it is perhaps more correct to say this is an exploration of the classical ballet form in modern music/dance formats.  If you are a fan of So You Think You Can Dance you will absolutely love this show.  It has all the ingredients that are intriguing about dancers working outside of their genre, which is what gets the audience excited and intrigued.

The troupe of 19 dancers come from a blend of contemporary and classical ballet.  All of them, however, cross forms and it is difficult to tell when one ends and the other begins most of the time.  This characteristics gives the whole show a peculiar air of familiarity yet strangeness.

Ballet Revolucion is not about narrative, and in that sense it comes across as something like a rock eistedffod – particularly the first act.  There are two choreographers, but it appears that they do not work together.  Rather their individual dances are programmed side by side. 

Chavez has a background in music videos, and that shows in his choreography.  His pieces involve the entire ensemble and have a more contemporary edge with slightly more clich├ęd formations and moves.  Cash, on the other hand, leans more heavily on the classical ballet genre.  His routines are more sophisticated, with a depth of meaning and engagement which tends to escape Chavez.

For me the highlight of the program was ‘Concierto De Aranjuez’.  I have always loved this piece of music.  It was composed in 1939 by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo for guitar and orchestra.  Cash has choreographed a quartet dance which is really two pas de deux danced in reference to each other.  One couple, a pair of classical dancers, dance the beginning of a relationship.  The other couple – contemporary dancers – dance the break down.

Whilst the dancing was intoxicating, the music was breath taking. Replacing the guitar in the music,  Thommy Rojas played the trumpet.  I was concerned that this instrument was too big for the piece, but Rojas is obviously a master trumpeter and instead, his horn added a fullness and plaintive cry which pierced my heart. 

The truth is that the band is the real star of this show.  Ripping through recent hits by Sia, Beyonce, and Usher, driving out power ballads, and yet having the depth and delicacy for this beautiful classic concierto was stunning to listen to.  I have to give a special shout out about Reyes whose vocals were incredibly adaptable, powerful and carried each moment of the songs on wings of glory.

Whilst all of the dancers were excellent in their own genre, the show did come across as a bit sloppy at times, particularly in the large ensemble pieces in the first act.  Synchronicity is not their strength, which is a shame because sometimes a group acting as one beast can highlight moments of individuality. 

The individuality is valued more, particularly in Chavez’s choreography, which gives it a slightly imprecise edge which is a shame because it is clear that the dances are far from imprecise in intention and execution.  The classical ballet work suffers from an inconsistency in ability.

Noda is the ballet soloist of the company and his pirouette sequences are amazing.  They go on and on beyond human ability to leave us gasping in amazement.  Whilst the other dancers do not have his skill and technique their ballet mistress, Isis Ramirez, must be working hard because every dancer in the troupe has excellent extension, elevation and body lines that don’t want to end.

If you enjoy seeing ballet pushed outside its traditional boundaries, or just want to see great dancing to cool tunes played by an outrageous band, Ballet Revolucion is the show for you.  The encore ‘She Bangs’ will have you wanting to jump out of your seat to dance with the performers.

3.5 Stars

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