Havana After Dark
- Lucy Ribchester
- 15 August 2019
This article is from 2019
Cuban extravaganza of fabulous musicianship and sassy dance
As singer Gisela Lepio explains, mid-way through this show after the lights have gone out on a Rumba, darkness in Havana is not an unusual occurrence. A drop in the availability of oil, partly attributable to US trade sanctions, means that the electricity can suddenly cut off, sometimes for hours.
But then, continues Lepio, these apagones as they are named in Spanish, can make for some of the best nights of your life, as long as you spend them with the right person. She squeezes the hand of fellow singer Joaquin Garcia and they break into a duet, backed by candlelit dance – two women spin and whirl into each other's arms. A dancer languorously leads her male partner off stage.
This gentle reminder of the unique conditions under which Cubans live, countered with a defiant refusal to let them dampen the cultural spirit, sums up the tone of the show. Yes, it is a crowd-pleasing, noisy riotous night out, full of sharp pack ensemble choreography, reggaeton, sassy street costumes and the Cuban music that's familiar from cultural touchstones like Buena Vista Social Club.
In one instrumental number, pianist Rolando Luna takes the lead, passing the baton round each of his band for them to riff and jam with the kind of laid-back virtuosity that you never want to come to an end.
It's a blinding showstopper – as is the Rumba that follows, a West Side Story-style carnival of partnering and dance duels en masse. Ballet dancers Barbara Patterson and Carlos Acosta protégé Daniel Rittoles dance two sweepingly romantic duets, full of the poise and technical brilliance that comes from training in one of the world's most rigorous classical schools.
Extravaganza it may be, but it's one with a huge beating heart.
Pleasance at EICC, until 25 Aug (not 21), 9pm, £15–£17.50 (£12–£14).