The Formula of Poetry in Dance
By Martha Sanchez (*) PRENSA LATINA, February 20, 2015
If anyone doubts that the arts can mesh fluidly, please run to see Danza Contemporánea de Cuba (DCC). The Scottish choreographer Billy Cowie has found a formula so good, so intense as to confuse the senses. Poetry, painting, poetry, sculpture, poetry, dance, poetry, poetry! Tangos Cubanos has a little of tango and a little of Cuba, but is aimed more at the universal and falls entirely on the sublime. Given this choreography and that company, the viewer has no other choice but to enjoy the beauty of a Rodin influenced kiss and succumb to hypnosis.
Cowie’s own music highlights the poetry of gesture, the text traces patterns, suggests, invokes. From the aesthetic point of view, most of the sections play with cubism and surrealism embracing Apollinaire's vision, an alliance between painting and dance, between the visual arts and the mimetic. This choreography not only elevates the senses but leads the viewer in an ideal journey through a museum of modern art.
Billy Cowie is in the world vanguard where he is known as a pioneer in combining real dancers and others projected in 3D - but working with digital technologies in Cuba is not plain sailing. The technical conditions of the theatres of the island just let us fantasize with traditional lights - not coincidentally for the commissioning of Cuban Tangos the Scottish choreographer was sponsored by the British Council and the Casa del Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano. The Mella Theater of Havana lent their unique stage for this plastic adventure in which artists dance between tables or within the paintings, as if tattooed, with studied lyricism and without excess.
The Argentine Enrique Santos Discepolo, considered one of the greatest poets of tango, defined the genre as a sad thought that is danced. Perhaps this was the single idea captured by the choreographer and composer who also refused to portray easy stereotypes of Cuba. Cowie evaded the cliches that make many Cubans feel outside our own culture and portrayed us as ordinary humans, yes tropical, but citizens of the world.
The alliance between music, dance, literature, costumes, props, lighting, choreography, dancers, flowed like an orchestra. On another work of Cowie a European critic said in 2011: "Everything in the piece is perfect." It would be fair to add that this work achieved that miracle once again.
For Total Dance
Pedro Ángel • La Habana, Cuba • 21 Feb 2015
It takes ten events, short, simple, like photos, seemingly inauspicious to provide an epic axis to the great work before us ... They are memories, evocations of Havana referenced in a form so that arguably almost nothing happens, no more so than in life. In Tangos Cubanos Billy Cowie is brought to us as a poet of deep suggestion, his work moves through a world of subtleties, enjoy the kiss intensified by tied hands, total delight; the enjoyment of sensual legs in a dance that does not allow the movement of bodies, or the nakedness of an erotic foot; an irreverent finger in response to the request for a kiss; the lightness of living; the hint of how life goes on, so silent, the overflowing imagination and tangency with shreds of reality as digested and presented in the vision of the other that is the choreographer’s.
The whole is a ritual of sobriety, it is the delicacy, the economy of means, the symbol open with multiple significant edges, it is to make a voyage to the profundity of the interpretation and then receive it reworked in each passage, at all moments. How does Billy Cowie create such a tenuous atmosphere in a sea of twenty thrilling dancers naturally adjusting their sonorities to that, so lyrical and slightly ringing?
It is the feat of a total master, with a well-defined individual voice in a moving spectacle. But if there is the clear expertise of the choreographer, one can not stop also praising the visual design of Silke Mansholt, costumes, Holly Murray and lights, Fernando Alonso; all in full harmony with the work.
Tangos Cubanos; the symmetrical kiss of Billy Cowie
They are kissing each other, deeply and symmetrically, libidinously undulating, moving, dancing even, dancing to the bars of a tango music. Billy Cowie, musician, poet and choreographer, had to come to sublimate this contextual kiss, this everyday street life of XXI century Cuba in his choreography Tangos premiered at the Teatro Mella with the company Danza Contemporanea de Cuba; poetizing with precise phrase (spoken or danced) these ways to seduce another, even a stranger, and recreate graciously drinking a clear beer, without opportunistic Cosumbrismos or false modesty. Cowie rediscovered a precise dynamic model in which the spectacular dancing body which does not overflow and is faithful to certain informal freedoms and turned that to the established uniformity in the current Cuban identity struggles, without ever leaving the more hispid half of the island.
Sequence by sequence between a softly resounding, almost erotic offstage text with a Castilian musical pronunciation and projected in English on the black background of the stage, Cowie choreographed a series of geometric group combinations where exact repetition became the algorithm provoking the rigor. Less programmatic especially in the duets, the British artist was referring to a plausible Havana, hard and nostalgic, romantic and vulgar life experiences, dotted as printed graphic on the costumes and fully reinforced in the expressionist drawings projected on the entire width of the stage. The dance told tense and dramatic stories, more modern than contemporary as a tango, concrete, somewhat contained with even repressed moments, sensual, worldly talking about hunger, and even tenderly too, the fruit of English romanticism obviously upset by these love stories in Havana today that are more than ever marked by no happy ending.
Tangos Cubanos is a highly respectable intercultural creation, evidence of a chivalrous sensitivity with give and take to the other. A piece to remember the good synthesized making and to remind us of that which we carry beyond any social border. This is the third Tango of Billy (before he choreographed Tango de Soledad as a 3D installation and Tango Brazileiro as a dance video) and on the night of its premiere at the Teatro Mella I do not remember anything else after she turned her multiple backs without looking back at the five who were ready to fly.