The intoxicating rhythms of Cuban dance and music burst from the stage in Havana Rakatan. From the sultry rumba to the slick footwork of the Cha-cha-cha, 14 dancers are accompanied by a stunning live band as they perform a captivating and colourful display of Cuba’s many vibrant dance forms.
Choreographer Nilda Guerra and her company present the passion and exuberance of a country famous for its rich music and dance heritage.
From the sexy, spontaneous rumba to the slick footwork of the Cha-cha-cha, Havana Rakatan is a show that's guaranteed to get heads nodding and feet tapping. Set to live Cuban music courtesy of Cuba's well-known Son band Turquino, Havana Rakatan, consisting of a cast of 23 performers, is a captivating journey through the dance and music of a truly unique country. Jazz, Mambo, Bolero, Son, Cha-cha-cha, Rumba and Salsa all come alive in a dazzling dance display of Cuban passion.
Havana Rakatan tells the story of over 500 years of dancing in the Caribbean island renowned for its party spirit. The impressive array of dance styles include ancient African rituals in which the dancers appear as African Gods and Goddesses, giving way to modern forms such as the Mambo that caused scandal in the 1940’s, and the Cha-cha-cha that defines the glamour and elegance of the Cuban woman in the 1950’s. This all culminates in the salsa, which as we know is a spectacularly contagious mixture of all these forms.
Havana Rakatan is a captivating journey through the dance and music of a truly unique country!
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A rapid-fire history lesson on the origins of Cuban dance and how the various styles evolved it is fuelled by a superb band playing onstage above the dancers. The girls are all gorgeous, the boys are all buff. The simple but stunning backdrops whisk us from The Malecón, the long promenade on Havana’s edge where Cubans of every generation hang out, talk, flirt and practise their dance steps, to the red ochre earth of the sugarcane fields and from a colourful Havana slum to a modern day cabaret.
The early section dealing with the collision and eventual cohesion of African tribal dancing and Spanish flamenco has been trimmed and delivers its powerfully seductive message with calibrated finesse. In her vivid scarlet dress Maria Mercedes Perez Rodriguez displays a breathtakingly erotic flamenco while her fellow conquistador Yordan Mayedo Perez subdues the native population with his sword. The hard-edged passion of the Afro-Flamenco gives way to the softer Guateque, a gorgeous romantic duet between a cane-cutter and a rural girl who are eventually joined by three shadow couples, dancing in unison. The famous Chan Chan (signature song of The Buena Vista Social Club), backs a tremendously sexy quartet of girls in their slips (having divested themselves of their dresses) whose partners lead them tenderly towards consummation. The first act concludes with a fiery portrait of modern day Havana complete with peanut-seller, a girlfight and a Santeria priestess. The performance by Yoanis Reinaldo Pelaez Tamayo as an inebriated zombie, spine seemingly dislocated into an S-shape while his arms flap around like filleted pythons is eye-poppingly funny.
Wayne McGregor, take note. If the dancing in Act Two appears more sedate, it is simply a reflection of the increasing sophistication of the movement, played out within the setting of a cabaret or nightclub. The bolero and the cha-cha-cha are conveyed with effortless ease while the singers (Geidy Chapman and Michel Antonio Gonzales Pacheco) come to the fore in an almost a capella duet of sublime harmony. The entire cast, comprising seven women and six men, perform with infectious good humour and their direct gaze removes any barrier between “performer” and “spectator”. even when one of the girls’ dresses comes apart at the back, she continues dancing as if such sartorial accidents were the most natural thing in the world. No need to hijack a plane to Cuba. Just get on down to sunniest, sexiest dance show in town.
Beware Zombies! Well, one to be precise. But when a production can provide sinuous sensuality, the bustle of a busy city and a cheeky reference to the internet's favourite meme all in one dance sequence, then you know you're onto a winner. Absorbing, engrossing and downright saucy, Havana Rakatan is the history of the evolution of Cuban dance and music. Blending the erotic charms of Spanish Flamenco with the drum-heavy music and energetic physicality of African slaves, the story wends its way from the country's rural plantations to the melting pot that is Havana.
Created by director and choreographer Nilda Guerra, the first act is a beguiling narrative of Havana's most important influences, beginning with El Malecón, the city's 8km esplanade that separates those famously faded colonial buildings from the treacherous sea. It's a place for promenading, preening and partying. The action then segues to a sensitively portrayed account of the Spanish enslavement of Africans on the island and the resulting cultural fusion.
As time moves on, so their shared style becomes more refined, Guerra choreographing a beautiful, funny duet of seduction and young love that wouldn't look out of place in Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Stepping lightly into the heart of Havana, Guerra guides us into the town's back streets via the country's most important musical export El Manicero. With over a million copies of the piece's sheet music sold worldwide, El Manicero was largely responsible for the massive explosion of interest in Cuban music and dance during the 1940s. Act two allows the comprehensive onstage band to come into their own with sultry works that focus primarily on the dances that Cuba and Latin America are renowned for - mambos, boleros, rumbas and salsas. The lights shifting effortlessly on the simple stage to denote changes of setting and pace. The final half is spectacularly sexy.
Rakatan could provide some entertaining solace. Two years since its last, triumphant appearance in London, the show returns to the capital in all its kaleidoscopic glory, further burnished since its last UK outing by acclaimed theatre director Stephen Rayne. Havana Rakatan tells the story of more than five centuries of Cuban dancing and its unique fusion of Spanish culture and African spiritual beliefs.
In the show, ancient African rituals, in which Ballet Rakatan's dancers appear as African gods and goddesses, give way to modern forms such as the mamba (which caused outrage in the Forties) and that epitome of Fifties Cuban glamour, the cha-cha. En route to culminating in an explosion of salsa – which has become the island's signature dance form – the show embraces flamenco, yoruba and Afro-Haitian rhythms, as well as jazz, mambo and bolero, all performed by the versatile HR dancers with live, effervescent music throughout by Cuban band Turquino. In short, bank holiday weekend spectaculars seldom come livelier, sexier or more flamboyant. What are you waiting for?