Ballet, as you’ve never seen it! An explosion of Cuban passion and athleticism with contemporary music will set the stage on fire at the Glasshouse this month. Choreographer Aaron Cash tells us about the pure excitement that is Ballet Revolución …
Hi Aaron … give us an overview of Ballet Revolución and what it’s all about?
It’s a commercial dance show that’s a fusion of classical and contemporary styles of dance.
We’re using Cuban dancers, so there are a couple of traditional elements of Cuban dance – but it’s not a Cuban dance show per se. For example, you have a Mambo that is more of a deconstructive Mambo, which uses classical and contemporary lines and techniques, and then you have more upbeat songs from Usher, Green, JLO – so it’s very much a commercial dance show in that sense.
It’s like So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing With The Stars, with a little bit of a flavour of Cuba in there.
Who’ll be performing on the show?
We have an 8-piece band, we have two singers – male and female; they’re both from London. The band is amazing – you could just go along and see them on their own. The whole show is a really exciting package. Overall, there are 17 dancers.
What’s your background as a choreographer, and how did you become involved with the show?
I’m Australian and I’ve been involved as a dancer with Twyla Tharp, Baryshnikov; I danced with Cher for 10 years. Choreography was just a natural progression from being a dancer.
My involvement came about through working with one of the producers, Jon Lee. About 15 – 16 years ago, we did a show in Sydney called Linnaeus Prince of Flowers, which was in the Botanic Gardens. We became really good mates.
Over the years, I’d go to London and he’d see me perform with Twyla, or with Cher, and I’d invite him to the show and we’d hang out afterwards.
He called me and wanted me to do some choreographing in New Zealand, then in Edinburgh. This was a natural progression, because he’d been doing Salsa shows from Cuba for 10 years and was responsible for Buena Vista as well.
He called me out of the blue last year and said, “I’m thinking about doing a classical and contemporary show. My resume is beer and curry; yours is champagne and caviar … what about you come along and help me audition some dancers?” Two days later, I was in Havana!
The fusion of Cuban, classical and contemporary – was it very difficult to choreograph for this mix?
No – it was more exciting! The dancers are just so incredibly capable and talented … you just go in there and say, “Oh – I like the look of that! Let’s try a bit of this and a bit of that.”
It’s a collaboration … I obviously have a vision of where I want it to go, but you see what they bring to the table and if it works, you use it and incorporate it.
It’s just been such fertile, fun material to work with. Going to work each day was just so much fun!
How long has the show been in development?
We only started in September last year with the initial auditions. In October last year we held a workshop and created about 35 minutes of material.
We invited some producers from Germany, England, France, America – and we got some great feedback. We started proper rehearsals in February, and I was there for almost 3 months putting it all together.
As this is the world premiere of this show, it would appear that a lot of the performers haven’t even travelled out of Cuba before?
No – the majority haven’t. We have a young cast – there are a lot of guys who are 18 – 19. They’re bright eyed and bushy-tailed – they’ve been amazing.
Of course, the weather’s not doing them much good … they’re used to 40 degree heat and high humidity, so most of them are freezing!
We’re having a great time and the audiences have been fantastic. By the end of the show they’re out of their seats and dancing. It’s such an uplifting show – you leave the theatre totally pumped!
Interview by Jo Atkins.