Welcome to a world in which West Africa meets Jamaica, meets Cuba: A world of burning desire, or as they say in Yoruba,
It is a privilege to welcome Danza del Caribe to Edinburgh: their production is dynamic, powerful and visually stunning.
Founded in 1988 the company is still reeling from the death of its artistic director Eduardo Rivero-Walker three years ago. Leaving behind his Jamaican roots the Maestro, as he is affectionately known, moved to Cuba where he established an outstanding reputation as a principal dancer and choreographer. Rivero revelled in the human form and strived to show its power, beauty and versatility in his works. For those familiar with western contemporary dance some of the style may seem reminiscent of Martha Graham, but here, although the torso is central to the movement, her sudden contractions become waves of energy flowing through the body and often a marked contrast can be noted between the movements of the its upper and lower parts. This is the West African influence, exemplified in Sulkary, now regarded as a classic of modern Cuban dance.
This first item in their programme contains all the elements of the genre. Traditional music with powerful drum beats and close harmony singing accompanies the dancers, setting the rhythms and tempi for their performance. Costumes, stunning in their colours and craft, are minimal, in order to expose as much of the body as is respectfully possible, and to ensure the visibility of movements. There is a profound sense of ritual and symbolism with movements rising up from the ground and reaching to the sky. The staffs carried by the men beat on the sustaining earth but also invoke the force of the heavens; they symbolise authority and have powerful phallic significance representing the importance of fertility. In the closing stages head shaking, wide staring eyes and ultimately the inflated cheeks and blowing of the air witnesses to possession by spirits. The modern theatre enables all of this to be enhanced by a beautifully executed lighting plot and stunning effects.
These elements are present throughout the other works in this programme. Luz, by Eduardo Salas, a disciple Rivero’s and a principal dancer, pays homage to the Maestro and moves the company’s repertoire forward into their next phase. It is a sensual, regal piece and like the concluding dance, Los Elementos, additionally illustrates the use of more elaborate symbolic costumes. An unusual feature in these works is the live sound of the cello in one and recorded music in the other.
Itara is the chance to experience the rich musical and dance traditions of eastern Cuba centred around Santiago. You will not find this in La Habana; it is far removed from The Buena Vista Social Club and salsa. It is a privilege to welcome Danza del Caribe to Edinburgh: their production is dynamic, powerful and visually stunning. Seize this opportunity: it might also give you the itara to visit the company’s homeland.