Posted on June 11, 2007 - by MG
We saw the terrific dance show Havana Rakatan in London on Saturday. Performed and choreographed by a Cuban ballet troupe who specialise in folkloric dance, it demonstrates the evolution of dance in Cuba. From the fusion between Spanish dances like flamenco and African rhythms and dance from the Santeria religion, the show charts the development of dances including son, mambo, cha-cha-cha, rumba and salsa.
It covers similar ground to the show Lady Salsa but in a more balletic manner, without any explanatory narrative. The music is performed by son band Turquino, a tight ensemble who play a hugely impressive set.
The dancers are all gorgeous, but my favourites were Joel and Yordy. It was hard to take my eyes off the beautiful men, (especially during the little striptease at the beginning where, breathing hard after a strenuous introductory number, the men line up at the front, slowly unbutton their shirts to much audience encouragement, and strip to the waist, revealing a row of the most delectable torsos you’re likely to see this side of Cuba…)
I did occasionally watch the women too, who were pretty darn fabulous.
Act 1 focuses on the African dances of the Orisha deities who intercede, in the Santeria/Lukumi religion, between humans and the creator God. That very morning I’d written a scene featuring a Santeria chant to Ochun. Watching Havana Rakatan, I was delighted to hear that very chant being used to open the sequence of breathtaking dances of the Orishas.
(It is also the chant at the beginning of Adalberto Alvarez’s santeria-rap-salsa composition, ‘Y Que Tu Quieres Que Te Den’.)
Act 1 alone is worth the ticket price. To see these dances performed by the world experts in Afro-Cuban folkloric dance is a huge treat. The music adds another level. I was simply astonished at how well Turquino and their singers performed this Afro-Cuban music. Mesmerizing is the only word for it. I could have listened to them for hours. At one point five singers (including two percussionists) joined in, singing tight close-harmony. Spellbinding!
The other highlight is the blistering performance of rumba near the end. Echoing their earlier roles as warring Orishas, the two lead dancers performed a rumba contest, including the fastest tembleque (shaking of the shoulders and pelvis) I’ve ever seen.
It’s on at the Peacock Theatre in London’s West End, until 23rd June. I may have to go again…
The reviews use words like ‘dazzling’ ‘spectacular’ ‘rip-roaring’. They’re NOT exaggerating.
(NB If you go on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday there are salsa classes, DJ and dancing ’til late.)