Ballet Revolución

Cuba may struggle economically, but for talent and raw élan, these performers make the country one of the richest in the world.
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Reviewers in both Sydney and Brisbane have now attended the current tour by Ballet Revolución; what did they think of the show?

Brisbane performance reviewed by Gillian Wills

Cuba is forever linked with rebellion, so why not call this ensemble of extraordinarily athletic contemporary dancers, Ballet Revolución? Knowing how formalized ballet is, this troupe of dancers goes against the traditional grain with its heady mix of street dance splashed with contemporary dance, jazz, hip-hop, acrobatics and disco. There’s even a Michael Jackson moon walk moment.

When the show began and a blast of this high kicking, jumping, pirouetting and somersaulting company ignites the stage and burns the audience, there’s nothing more to do but say ‘wow,’ then surrender and engage with the fire storm. And, the energy is unstoppable. The moves dazzling. After a while, ahem… exhausting.

Amazing though the moves were, they are repetitive, which probably wouldn’t matter if the choreography dealt in counterpoint and contrast, but, the ensemble is in perfectly synchronized unison for most of the first half of the show. Granted that takes some doing. Yes, of course, it’s impressive. It seemed a shame because this supra-gifted, beautiful, über-rehearsed bunch would breeze through more complex choreography.

Some of us pined for variation, sincerity and heart.

Even so, Lianett Rodriguez Gonzalez and Jesus Elias Almenares are riveting, and seemed the favourites of the crowd. Yet, just when, it seems that nothing could get any better, Moises Leon Noriega arrives and cranks the inspiring athleticism up a notch or two.

Cuba’s population is eclectic. The streets are alive with all kinds of music. This show reflected the multiple grooves that are Cuba’s soundtrack, from the cumbanchero and the mambo to Usher and Shakira. All are heard in downtown Havana. This troupe’s music of choice pulses through Beyonce, Prince and Brown to Iglesias, Rodrigo and the infectious grooves of Latin America.

The eight strong band is exceptional. The singers powerful. Gripe: the musicians are too frequently hidden behind a curtain, a pity because they really added to the show whenever they were visible. Luis Palacios Galvez’s conga is breathtaking, the trumpet of Thommy Garcia Rojas screams with pzazz and the bassist Osmar Salazar Hernandez, also the show’s music director, is a star.

Change does arrive in the second half. The force of 19 splintered into pairs and fours and other combos. The pulse relaxed at times, there’s an excursion into Tango and the change and difference picked up the audience. The vibe gradually soars once again to high octane, spectacular, electrical performance.

Cuba may struggle economically, but as far as talent, fizzing energy and raw élan goes these performers make the country one of the richest in the world.

The show is enjoyable most of the time. The only thing missing is a narrative hook; a compelling vehicle to give meaningful carriage and emotional depth to the brilliance of the moves.  

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5


Lyric Theatre, QPAC
19 June

Sydney performance reviewed by Lynne Lancaster

Though I was quite disappointed in this production, I gather from the generally enthusiastic audience reaction that I am in the minority. Interestingly, this is a very different reaction from my response when I saw this work in 2011.

It was a plotless work; a series of various vignettes, a massive jumble of assorted uneasily blended dance styles. There was a definite classical ballet base, but also included were contemporary, showbiz musical, hip hop, hot and spicy Latin American ballroom, and breakdancing, among others. The blend of styles and genres was choreographed by two different masters (ex Tap Dogs Australian Aaron Cash, and Roclan Gonzalez Chavez) and brought to us by producers Mark Brady and Jon Lee. At times it was quite dramatic and visually impressive and there were some splendid small explosive solos. The dancers’ African, Spanish and Indigenous ancestry is blended with a ballet technique that has been developed in Cuba through decades of involvement with the Russians (also think of Alicia Alonso and Carlos Acosta for example).

The dancers are superbly fluid, with huge fabulous soft jumps (especially from the men) amazing elevation, ballon and batterie. However especially in the first half, I found the choreography uninspired and repetitive, bad second rate ‘Russian’ in style with high showy lifts and lots and lots and lots of pirouettes and tours en l’air. I also found the inclusion of both hard pointe work and barefoot in the same work, often doing the same choreography, rather odd.

I also did not really like the ‘torn’ designs of the black costumes in the first half, with the skin coloured leotards worn by some of the women quite obvious because of the lighting.

In the opening number of the second half, the dancers wore short red dresses which looked great, but the effect was killed by the clunky black pointe shoes (this company seemed to have a fixation with black pointe shoes. Surely here they should have been the legendary balletic Red Shoes?).  

Cuban dancers can be incredibly hot, sexy and exciting with flying dreadlocks. The dance can be exhilarating and passionate. The company tried with a most interesting ‘Concierto de Aran Juez’ – a sculptural, athletic, double pas de deux about the break-up of relationships.

The compelling driving rhythms had you dancing in your seat. The vibrant band was excellent and there is a jaw-dropping drum solo by Raynher Lasserie Echegoy – you could hear the Flamenco (also possibly classical Indian?) influences in the blindingly fast staccato rhythms and claps. The singers (Kristin Hosein and Weston Foster) were delightful, jumping across a medley of styles with ease.

Some of the men are absolutely amazing dancers and there are some short featured solos, non-balletic in style (‘DJ Got Us Falling in Love Again’ has a spectacular Michael Jackson like opening section for example). The men are definitely hot, and ladies, there is a very spicy Chippendales like segment for you.

An interesting exuberant showcase of some very exciting Cuban dancing but for me it fell a bit flat.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5

State Theatre, Sydney

25 June


Gold Coast: 3-6 July

Toowoomba: 7 July

Caloundra: 8 July

Maryborough 9 July

Rockhampton: 10 July

Townsville: 12 July

Cairns: 13 July

Mackay: 14 July

Melbourne: 17-20 July

Adelaide: 23-27 July

Perth: 30 July – 3 August


Gillian Wills & Lynne Lancaster
About the Author
Gillian Wills is a freelance arts writer based in Brisbane who publishes articles and reviews with the the Courier Mail, the Townsville Bulletin, Artist Profile, ArtsHub, Australian Stage Online, Aussie Theatre, Westender, LIMELIGHT, Australian Book Review and the Strad (UK). Her blog can be found at   Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.