I know nothing about dance. Fact. Or maybe I knew nothing about dance, and now I know a little about dance?
Either way, I had very little knowledge or experience on the subject. I had done the obligatory ballet lessons when I was younger (and left when I “knew it all” – a favourite story of my mums), partook in secondary school dance at P.E and have been know to throw some strange looking shapes on a dance floor. But aside from that my knowledge was minimal, so when asked if I would like to attend a Q and A with the dancers from Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, I took a gulp and said “yes”.
I did my research on the company, the different work they had done and tried to come up with some questions that sounded like I knew something about dance. But they sounded silly; if I didn’t believe in what I was asking them, would they really be interested in answering it, and would I be able to take anything from their answers?
So I scrapped my questions and wrote down what I really wanted to know – how do they all get on during a tour as big as this one, how do you prepare for such an energetic performance, what happens if the audience doesn’t react how you expect, what makes you do what it is that you do?
They were THE nicest! I was with three other bloggers so it was a task to fit in all our questions in the allotted time; especially when we forgot to ask a question because we were too engrossed in what they were saying, and just wanted them to carry on talking! They were clearly so passionate about their dance; it isn’t just something that pays the bills but is much more of an expression of themselves; a chance to meet so many different people and share a story with them. They spoke about how different every audience can be, not just in different countries and cultures but even in the same city, from one day to the next an audience can change completely.
As well as gruelling hours rehearsing at home in Havana (10am – 6, 7 or 8pm every day, 6 days a week), the company spend hours preparing pieces to make sure it is up to the highest standard. This includes warm ups, lessons in classical ballet, contemporary, choreography and continuous hard work!
Working with some famous names such as Theo Clinkard (born in Cornwall!),Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and George Cespedes, they certainly do them justice! The dancers spoke about the close relationship they have with the choreographers and it is clear to see how passionate about them they are, stating that one of the most important roles as an artist is to translate what the choreographer is thinking into a physical experience for the audience. said that as a dancer she was like a weapon, like a gun, taking an idea and giving it the the audience.
Considering some of the dancers have been with the company for over 9 years, much more than many would stay in one single job, I was really interested to find out how they prepared for shows and kept up their enthusiasm for the pieces.
“Every audience is different, even from the first night, to the second night, it is different. And I am different.” To make sure they can send that message is so important, to connect with an audience and ensure that they can see the inner personalities.
And preparation for a show is different for each dancer; some might take a shower, be quiet for 30 minutes, some might listen to music and others might practice. But the one thing they always do before a performance, and the most important is to hug. They said that the company is one family and to feel together is vital.
So, a few hours later, we sat excitedly in the audience as the performance was about to start. There was a really great buzz in the theatre, with everyone excited to experience the show. It has had (quite rightly) amazing reviews and many people were either back to see it for a second time or had been recommended to go. The theatre had even had to open up the upper circle to accommodate everyone after it had sold out!
And it did not disappoint. I won’t try to talk about the show in technical detail (as it will be blindingly obvious that I googled every term!) but it was everything I think dance should be; inspiring, touching, beautiful and mesmerising.
The first piece, Reversible, definitely highlighted an idea from the choreographer, making the audience think about their pre conceptions. The second, a very contemporary piece, was completely different to anything I’d seen before and really demanded attention.
The third, however, was by far my favourite! The dancers had spoken about how Cuban dancers are one of a kind, combining sensuality, confidence, passion and energy into everything that they do. And this was certainly all those and more. You could almost see Cubas identity in front of you; their struggles, their uprising and their spirit as a country all wrapped up in a 38 minute performance that saw them completely own the Theatre Royal Plymouth’s stage. you could see the passion on each dancers face and felt the energy throughout the Lyric.
So although I will probably never know the ins and outs of the dancing world, I now have an understanding of what it means to be an artist, how much work goes in to what we as an audience see and how much you must love everything about what you do to make it truly believable.
I also know that I now want to be a dancer. In Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. If only I hadn’t given up ballet!