There’s no questioning the authenticity of Cuban dance spectacular Ballet Revolucion, which makes its world premiere in Perth this week before touring Australia in the coming months.
The entire cast of dancers are Cuban natives, and rehearsals and development for the show took place while immersed in the sights and sounds of their home country.
Australian choreographer Aaron Cash, who was taking a brief break in Los Angeles when he spoke to the Star Observer, had just finished a nine-week stint in Cuba directing his cast and was about to return to put the finishing touches on the production before heading to Australia.
“Oh, it’s all very real — for better or worse. In Cuba, it seems like they only turn the water on three times a week and then it’s full of poo,” he laughed. “So yes, I can assure you the show’s very authentic!”
Cash had never been to Cuba before September last year, when his friend and producer John Lee asked him to help devise a show that would deliver ballet ‘unleashed as only Cubans now how’ to the world.
“Two days later, I’m on a plane to Cuba to audition dancers and put together a show. It came out of the blue, but I’ve had such a great time. Cuba is such a complex and interesting place.”
And as for the decision to premiere this Cuban production halfway across the world?
“[Co-producer] Mark Brady’s Australian, and he knows Australian audiences are very discerning when it comes to dance, so he feels it would be a really good litmus test for us to try the show out here before taking it to Europe and America,” Cash said.
“We know we’ll get good, constructive feedback from Australian audiences.”
The cast and crew will head to Zurich in September.
Cash, who despite his extensive background as a principal backing dancer for Cher is not actually of the homosexual persuasion, has been teamed with Cuban choreographer Roclan Gonzalez Chavez for Revolucion, with the pair sharing co-choreographing credits.
“[Ours] is a mix of styles, but we complement each other well. Roclan comes from a really cabaret, commercial background, and he’s like the hot young thing right now in Cuba — a very, very good choreographer, and uniquely Cuban.
“Cubans seem to be able to move masses of people around on stage seamlessly — it’s like watching a kaleidoscope. That’s one of his strong suits.”
Cash was effusive in his praise of the unique skills of Cuban dancers, saying they move “like no other human beings I’ve ever seen”.
“Before they can stand, most of them can salsa. Music and dancing is such a huge part of who they are. I mean, I’ve been dancing since I was eight years old, I’m an original Tap Dog — when it comes to percussion and rhythm, I know my stuff,” he said matter-of-factly.
“But these Cuban dancers — they hear things in the music no one else does. Next to them, I feel like a kid again, stepping over myself.”
If ‘hearing things no one else does’ seems like a slightly vague description of the talents of Cuban dancers, Cash offered a more empirical explanation.
“So many dancers talk about being ‘in the pocket’ [of the beat]. Most Western dancers tend to be a little bit ahead, some African dancers lag behind, but Cuban dancers are so in the music, in the pocket, it’s mesmerising.”
Early in Cash’s career, world-renowned choreographer Kenny Ortega (Dirty Dancing, High School Musical, and Michael Jackson’s This Is It) cast Aaron in Cher’s Love Hurts Tour, which led to a 10-year touring relationship as one of Cher’s lead dancers.
Being a gay publication, our readership would string us up if we didn’t speak to someone once removed from Cher and ask about the grand old dame of pop, showbiz and double-sided tape herself.
“I love her to death. My wife and I went to see her last concert in Las Vegas recently. I was able to work in this country [the US] because of her. I was 19 when I started on the road with her in ’89, and I kept going until 2000.
“She’s very sensitive, she’s got a wicked sense of humour. I can’t say enough good things about her. And all the stuff going on with Chaz right now — she’s embraced it totally and she’s being the best mother she can be.”
Will she tour again?
“Definitely. She went to Vegas, which was great, but that show was too expensive for her fans to come see, which disappointed her. She wants to see her fans again, so within the next year I reckon she’ll be back on the road doing another tour.”
info: Ballet Revolucion plays Sydney’s State Theatre, July 19 – 24, then Melbourne’s Arts Centre, August 2 – 7. Tickets through Ticketmaster. www.balletrevolucion.com.au