If energy, like love, were all, there would be no problems with this Cuban dance show now installed at the Peacock Theatre. The untiring and, indeed, inexorable activities of this Ballet Revolución troupe – and its accompanying band – could provide wattage for a not inconsiderable railway system in Mitteleuropa. But, sadly, a bonanza of split jumps, dervish-pirouettes, frenetic leaps and optimistic heavings of a partner does not amount to choreographic entertainment other than on the most basic level. Offered as an unlinked and unguessable sequence of dances to pop music provided with ferocious zest by a group of musicians placed at the back of the stage, with no discernible development save that of piling activity upon further brash activity, the show is loud, not notable for the sophistication of its means and button-holingly eager.
The cast all have knowledge of ballet technique. The largely male ensemble can leap with the best, spin like tops and strike poses suggestive of macho energy, ill-suppressed passion and an urgent desire further to express their feelings for their partners. The women, who are – how shall I put it? – sturdy and strong-toed, have a tendency to rotate on their own axes with unnecessary frequency, and find themselves, surely too often for comfort, in a position known in France as le grand écart.
There is, frankly, neither rhyme nor reason to this event, other than that of giving audiences the occasion to cheer, scream, drink from plastic cups and enjoy a jolly and whizz-bang time in an auditorium that fosters this relaxed behaviour. What it all has to do with ballet, revolutionary (as the company title proposes) or otherwise, escapes me. Brightly identified on the programme cover as “Ballet with attitude”, it is an unabashed display of dancing as blunt instrument, that has been (so we are assured) a huge success in Australia.
I admire the muscular verve and unsparing eagerness of its cast – notably the men – but can find no choreographic virtues in it other than those of a cabaret of no great finesse, and I am in some need of aspirin to alleviate the effects of its unrelentingly vivacities. As my companion remarked: “Les Sylphides it ain’t.”