Cuban dance trou­pe makes its US premiere

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba performs “Horizon.” The troupe appears at the Joyce through May 22.

Jerome Robbins was the hot American choreographer when communication withered between Cuba and the U.S., just as Danza Contemporanea de Cuba was founded more than 50 years ago. Now, when it’s hard to suppress images of American dance even in Havana, hip-hop has become an international language.

So it’s no surprise that “Mambo 3XXI,” which opened the enduring troupe’s two-week Joyce season, fuses 21st-century pop dance and the mid-1900s “teen” stylings of Robbins.

George Cespedes and his 21 casually dressed dancers combine energetic minimalism (marching, pacing, jumping up and down) with hip-hop and jazz combinations, including a sequence of quick duets that come as a treat after all the solo action. Finally, the loud, recorded score quiets down and some relaxed partnering wins our hearts; the audience stands and cheers.

Program A also includes “Casi-Casa” a mysterious narrative work by Sweden’s Mats Ek. A smoking stove, a door and a chair share the stage with a series of dramatic dances, the scariest of which involves a baked baby. A chorus of women wielding fake vacuum cleaners attempts step-dancing to bagpipe music. A man in a hat sulks in the lounge chair until a woman shows him out.

Strands of striped tape (a Cuban crime scene?) preside over a pause in the action, but all of these vignettes just never add up. The dancers attempt speaking, but we can’t quite hear them. This work verges on incoherence.

A second bill, opening Friday and alternating with Program A through May 22, features a world premiere by Pedro Ruiz, a 40-year-old dance by Eduardo Rivero to Cuban Yoruba music and another large-scale work by Rafael Bonachela, from 2007. 


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