From the island of dance to the island of Oz; the Ballet Revolucion is spreading. Are you ready for a change?
By Paul Ransom
Ladies and gentlemen, the revolucion will be choreographed. And what’s more it will be set to the music of Beyonce.
Perhaps it is no surprise that a boy from down under and a company of dancers from Castro’s Cuba should be the ones to turn ballet upside down and inside out. When the world premiere season of Ballet Revolucion storms the ramparts this month, it will herald both the beginning and the end of an extraordinary journey for Brisbane born choreographer Aaron Cash.
Cash is palpably excited by the prospect of the upcoming revolucion; no small thing for an original Tap Dog who went on to dance with Baryshnikov and Twyla Tharp. But it’s not just the dance – it’s the exotic, musical, island of Cuba itself.
Cash first began to piece together Ballet Revolucion last September. Despite the obvious roadblocks, it soon became apparent that the creation of this show would be anything but dull. “The artists there are phenomenal,” he enthuses. “It’s incredibly inspiring because to have the opportunity to be an artist in Cuba is the chance to have a better life. When you see a nice car drive down the road we would say ‘there’s a doctor or lawyer’ but they go ‘it must be a musician or a famous dancer’.”
Whatever else is true of Cuba, they exalt the arts in a way that perhaps no other country does and the government fully backs the talent of its citizens. Arts funding is no issue in Cuba. Dancers are recruited young and put through a state funded ‘hothouse’ system (much like the Russian model).
“The result is that they produce the most incredible talent,” Cash gushes. “My clichéd saying is ‘they don’t dance with the music, they dance in the music’. They move their bodies wonderfully. They have amazing technique, but they’re also incredibly expressive.”
In Cuba however, passion for music and dance runs much deeper than mere government sponsored elitism. Another of the many Cuban clichés is that music and dancing are in their blood; and Cash would surely agree. “Before they can even walk their parents have them standing and moving their hips to the salsa rhythm.”
Even for an exceptional dancer/choreographer like Cash, immersion in the dance culture of Cuba was something of a revelation. “I’ve been dancing all my life,” he begins. “I’m an original Tap Dog and I’ve danced with Baryshnikov, but I go to Cuba and I feel like I’ve got two left feet. It’s like being six years old again with your dance teacher … They turn like no one else. I’ve got one guy who does fifteen pirouettes like it’s nothing.”
It’s obvious that Cash is genuinely in awe of his cast and their cross-discipline prowess. From classical technique, to contemporary expression, to hip-hop elasticity, the dancers of Revolucion have it all. Consequently, Ballet Revolucion is a melange of high and street culture, of native Cuban and Western populism. Powered by the hits of Beyonce, Shakira and Ricky Martin, it’s a pulsating, rhythmic celebration of dance culture.
For Aaron Cash it is also something of a homecoming. Starting the world tour at home in Australia represents the completion of a circle. “It’s really emotional actually because most of the work that I’ve done has been overseas. When I danced with Baryshnikov and Twyla Tharp my mum, dad and my family never saw me do it, so to come home now with something like this … it’s kinda like a rebirth for me.”
Having recently endured a painful hip replacement operation, Cash the dancer is unequivocal about the joy that Ballet Revolucion has brought him. “The whole experience of working with these people has rejuvenated me”, he concludes.
Perth, The Regal Theatre July 1 – 17
www.ticketek.com.au 132 849
Sydney, State Theatre July 19 – 24
www.ticketmaster.com.au 1 300 139 588
Adelaide, Her Majestys Theatre July 26 – 29
Melbourne, The Arts Centre – State Theatre August 2 – 7
www.theartscentre.com.au www.ticketmaster.com.au 1 300 182 183
Brisbane, QPAC – Concert Hall August 10 – 12
www.qpac.com.au 136 246