Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: Kontakthof; Acosta Danza: 100% Cuban – review | Dance

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There’s a difficult balance in dance between being yourself on stage, making an impact with the weight of your presence (which is why people want to watch you in the first place) and presenting the choreography.

Pina Bausch’s Kontakthof, about life, love and the ongoing need for contact, was made in 1978, when the choreographer was developing her unique ideas about Tanztheater. It was created with a group of fiercely individual dancers, who brought their own personalities to the piece, and then deepened by the performers she nurtured and treasured down the years.

It has also been performed by non-dancers – old and young – who had a different authenticity. Now it’s back, in the hands and bodies of a new, young cast who are striving to burrow inside its sad, strange, troubling encounters between the sexes.

The society depicted to a soundtrack of songs from the 1920s and 30s, with its formal dances and incongruous nature film show, belonged to Bausch’s parents’ world. At first, this different generation struggle to find their way inside its gestures, its tone – all those silk dresses being twitched by anxious hands, hair being smoothed, teeth being shown.

As the three-hour piece progresses, though, the universality of its rituals, the pain and hope underlying the dances, pierces through. The dancers relax, letting their own lives illuminate Bausch’s steps. It isn’t quite as it was, but it is still utterly engrossing.

The dancers are undoubtedly the best thing about 100% Cuban, Carlos Acosta’s latest mixed programme for his Cuban-based company Acosta Danza. They have talent, personality and enthusiasm that beams off the stage. It is a pleasure to spend a couple of hours in their company.

The problem they face is that Acosta’s clear eye for potential in a performer is patchier when it comes to choosing works in which they can flourish. Hybrid (by Norge Cedeño and Thais Suárez) is a messy misunderstanding of the myth of Sisyphus, enlivened only by the energy of the dancers, and Impronta (by Maria Rovira) fails to make the most of the talent of Zeleidy Crespo, who can do anything asked of her but is here asked only dull questions.

De Punta a Cabo by Acosta Danza
‘A lively ending’: De Punta a Cabo. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Liberto, a duet about a freed slave, in which Crespo stars alongside Mario Sergio Elias, pushes her into incredible shapes and poses, and company dancer Raúl Reinoso has some good ideas, but its hectic intensity never quite gets anywhere. De Punta a Cabo, choreographed by Alexis Fernández (Maca) and Yaday Ponce, which sets the dancers against a film of them on Havana’s Malecón, the sea wall where young people hang out and dream, makes a lively ending to an evening, but its mix of pointe shoes and trainers feels a little forced.

Thank goodness, then, for Pontus Lidberg, whose sophisticated Paysage, Soudain, la nuit has a sumptuous score by Leo Brouwer and Stefan Levin and a glorious setting of a line of corn, courtesy of Elizabet Cerviño. It lets the dancers shine, their feet slipping and sliding, their arms a tapestry of gesture, the movement seemingly simple but always enticing.

Star ratings (out of five)
Kontakthof ★★★★
Acosta Danza: 100% Cuban ★★★



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