Strictly Come Dancing provides one of the only opportunities in the UK to witness the dance forms of Ballroom and Latin. Bringing the life and soul of the Rumba to the Tango into the nation’s living rooms every Saturday Night, it’s always sad when the show draws to a close. Cue Havana Rakatan, a bold, vivacious and celebratory production picking up from where Strictly left off with a dose of Cuban fearlessness and passion!
Nilda Guerra‘s smash hit production reunites once again with the Sadler’s Wells stage after its successful run of 6 years at the theatre. Marking Cuba’s historical heritage in a montage of sequences, Havana Rakatan immerses the audience into a sizzling and sassy holiday experience, transporting the auditorium to a land of sun, sea and Salsa without the inconvenience of checking out or lugging teems of luggage around at the airport!
Guerra’s choreography astounds with bundles of charisma and gusto whilst illustrating the diverse foundations of Cuban dance. The production showcases a multi-layered tapestry of traditional West African dance, Ballet, Salsa, Flamenco, Hip Hop and more, whilst creating an alternative educative experience. Certain routines make for crowd pleasing moments; Ana Rosa Meneses Arocha domineers as the self righteous Spanish colonialist, stamping and clapping as she reiterates her authority through the foundations of Flamenco. Traditional West African movement deriving from Nigeria interweaves the Colonialist narrative, as the ensemble inhabit the stage. The performance takes on the form of a battle, as the two worlds collide, drawing reference to the slave trade dating back to 500 years.
The performance briefly takes on the form of a wedding, as Yoanis Paleaz Tamayo and Elva Liana Santos Valdivia lead the chorus in a series of folk infused sequences. A mellow and family orientated affair, the piece further elaborates on the diversity of Cuban culture, showcasing the antithesis between the fast paced dance forms mostly associated with the country. The audience are then transported to the energetic and charismatic streets of Havana, as the ensemble encapsulate a colourful concoction of feisty punch ups and communal dances. Yarima Rodriguez Valencio amuses as the witch; a character ostracised from society whilst Yoanis Pelaez Tamayo amazes as the resident drunk with his puppet like choreography.
From the Mambo, to the Rumba, the ensemble depict a glitzy and filmic world of glamourous vignettes and sequences. Eguert Rodriguez Medina, Yoanis Paleaz Tamayo and Rafael Villalba Fontirroche contribute a Hip Hop and Acrobatic feel to the piece, flying through the air with Capoeira-style flips, tricks and daring footwork. Geidy Chapman‘s flawless vocal, accompanied by Rolando Ferrer Rosado‘s musical direction makes for a powerful combination. The band are a character all of their own, as they supply the fun filled musical backdrop of Congas, Trumpets and Trombones, inspiring the crowd to dance amongst the aisles. The piece flourishes best when it showcases the multiple dance styles in the Cuban repertoire, especially in the first half of the production. In terms of structure, the performance is more narrative-centric in the first half than the second, making the show’s story line disjointed. As there’s no narration and the cast take on multiple roles the story lines can also become confusing. 3/5
Havana Rakatan is currently showing at The Peacock Theatre (Sadler’s Wells). For more information on the production and to book tickets, visit here…