The dancers of Danza Contemporánea de Cuba are fabulously versatile – and they have to be, with a programme as mixed as this. The audience favourite (though not mine) was Mambo 3XXI by company choreographer George Céspedes. Following a drill-formation opening, the dancers try out partner holds, as if tentatively considering invitations to dance together. Then they do dance together, and how – big swinging lifts, flirtatious little twirls, jittery pogos, catches and chases. The mood is exuberant, and Céspedes keeps the arrangements tight even when the moves are loose. A section with mostly same-sex couples entwining to old-time Cuban songs has a more romantic feel, but then it’s back to the brassy, bouncy blend of aerobics, salsa, modern dance and techno rave. A blast, if you can take it.
Carmen?!, by the Finn Kenneth Kvarnström, is a determinedly whimsical take on the well-known tale of pride and passion, performed by seven men. It’s all about the pose: twisted toreador stances, hammy death throes and fluttery fingers. The famous music plays sometimes as hackneyed melodrama, sometimes as fairground accompaniment. The parody is amusing but not deep: Kvarnström pops the cliches, but only by inflating them to start with.
I found Sombrisa, by Netherlands-based Israeli Itzik Galili, the most captivating piece. Its pattering percussion score (Steve Reich’s Drumming) offers the choreography more texture than foothold, so Galili has to construct his own compositional framework. This he does beautifully, with lines of male and female dancers merging, emerging and sometimes crossing to generate fleeting clusters and duets. Shifting pools and strips of light make the forms and figures seem to appear and vanish. The style is limber but low-key, driven more by flow than force; startlingly, the dancers all wear boxing gloves, which impart an unusual heft and swing to every move. It’s a piece that unfolds rather than goes anywhere, but watching it happen is a pleasure.