Vamos Cuba! review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘never gets off the ground’
Waiting in an airport lounge for a delayed flight is never fun. Anxiety competes with frustration and boredom in a place seemingly designed for maximum discomfort.
While there is nothing wrong with the seats in Sadler’s Wells I experienced very similar feelings during Nilda Guerra’s flighty new follow-up to the hugely successful Havana Rakatan. The setting is Havana airport, all bright red and frosted glass, where a motley group of passengers en route to Miami express various emotions and engage in superficial exchanges while waiting for their delayed flight.
The colour and vibrancy of Guerra’s choreography is present in some sequences, notably absent in others. Her ability to fuse traditional Cuban dance forms (rumba, cha-cha-cha, salsa and danzon) with the newer reggaeton and contemporary dance is remarkable but is far too loosely attached to the concept here. The incidental dialogues and putative romances between the passengers and crew are never as convincing as the vibrant ensemble work in spite of amusing details like trying to find a signal for a mobile phone.
The musicians play with gusto, however, and the two singers Geydi Chapman and Maikel Ante are superb; they provide the warp and weft missing from the overall dance, in spite of some awkward changes of musical gear.
The girls get the lions’ share of the costumes which range from tight red stewardess uniforms to nearly-nude gold spangled cabaret items topped off by fabulous red-feathered headpieces. While the fight sequence that breaks out between men, women and men and women is fitfully amusing it is utterly pointless. The suitcase scene involving luggage containing internal lights is incomprehensible as is the subsequent cockroach dance. The white robed Orishas deliver a beautiful, uncluttered sequence that stands out by virtue of its calm, floating spirituality. As it moves fitfully to its lame conclusion the fragile concept falls to pieces in a mess of cliche and aimless dancing. Oh dear.