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Review of Compás
The persistent rain and the Cuban “winter” were of little matter to those who filled the Mella Theater during the first weekend of March, 2013, to attend the rerun of one of Danza Contemporánea’s most liked works. And there was no shortage of reasons. The first one: the undisputed values of Compás, especially created by the Dutch choreographer Jan Linkens and written by his fellow countryman Marc Jonkers for the Cuban company. The second reason: more than a rerun, it was a revival, for only four of the original thirty dancers of its premiere in 2003 intervened now. The third reason: it is an all-night show, which departs from the usual concert programs, but that the public is always grateful for.
Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, directed by Miguel Iglesias and one of the most solid dance companies in Cuba—and I dare say in the international dance scene—did not disappoint the audience. The young dancers undertook the challenge posed by the choreographer with joy, energy and virtuosity.
The first part, in which Linkens exploits the recognized sense of rhythm of Cuban dancers, put the polished technique, the rigorous training and the physical abilities of the company’s members to the test. This was evident in both the soloists and the choruses in an intelligent counterpoint, which sometimes worked as a whole, and other times established an antiphonal solo-chorus dialogue, always in keeping with the rhythmic variations imposed by the music. The ingenious fusion of modern and contemporary dance, and Cuban folklore was led with energy, vitality and subtlety The dancers conveyed feeling and emotion to an abstract choreographic score with no visible plot, skillfully solving complexities, both from a technical and dramatic perspective, and accomplishing clever transitions between climatic and more “relaxing” moments with a precise dosage of energy.
The second part, which is very much a dance show and even music hall, gave room for the participation of the audience—much too long and repetitive, in my opinion—who led by the lively Gabriela Burdsall ventured with a few dance steps that were graphically indicated in the program. Here, Linkens sought to emphasize the clichéd sensuality of Cubans by turning the scene into a grand ballroom. Using contrasts, he differentiated both sides, which ranged from the conceptual—at times minimalist—austerity of the first act to the exultant joy of the second one. Here, he confronted the grandiloquence of Shostakovich’s music with the nostalgic Cubanness of José White’s La bella cubana, with Elena Kats-Chemin’s concise modernity or with Duke Ellington’s swing, seconded by a ductile company who undertook the somewhat ironic bias suggested by the choreographer with ease.
While the 26 newcomers and four veteran dancers in Compás lived up to all expectations, one cannot but especially mention the virtuosic performance of Yosmell Calderón; the precision and elegance of Gabriela Burdsall, granddaughter of Lorna Burdsall, American founding dancer and choreographer of the company; and the exciting presence of Isidro Rolando, former dancer and current choreographer and regisseur of Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, who made a tremendous display of stage presence, authority and charisma.
Compás left the audience with the hope that Danza Contemporánea de Cuba will become a more assiduous presence in Havana theaters.
About Jan Linkens
Jan Linkens was born in the Netherlands and trained in dance at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. He joined Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam in 1977 and worked there for almost 17 years as a dancer and later also as a choreographer and ballet master.
The Early Years: As a dancer he worked with many different choreographers such as Hans van Manen, Rudi van Dantzig, Toer van Schayk, Kurt Jooss, Carolyn Carlsson, Maguy Marin, Peter Martins and Peter Wright. From 1994-1999 jointly with Marc Jonkers he was Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer of theTanztheater der Komischen Oper in Berlin. He is currently working with Companhia Nacional de Bailado in Lisbon which he joined in January 2009. In addition he has worked for many ballet and contemporary dance companies as guest choreographer and teacher.
Choreography: His first choreography was made in 1979 and since then he has created around 50 ballets for companies which as well as Danza Contemporanea de Cuba include Dutch National Ballet; Netherlands Dance Theatre; Ballet Victor Ullate; Scapino Ballet; The Israel Ballet; Tanztheater der Komischen Oper; Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Ballet Philippines; Companhia Nacional de Bailado; Companhia Portuguesa Bailado Contemporaneo; State Opera Ballet Izmir Turkey; and Rotterdam Dance Academy.
Awards: Jan has won various Awards including the Premio Villanueva for “Best Dance Production in Cuba” in 2003 for his work Compas for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and the prize of the UNEAC, an Artists Organization in Cuba, in 2004. June 2013