Review: Pasion De Buena Vista

Latin dance lover RACHEL CUNLIFFE got into the spirit of this night out.

Corn Exchange Cuba Dancesport Latin dance rum

Wednesday 10th, 7.30, Corn Exchange.

Even the lady at the box office seemed to have no clue what Pasion De Buena Vista actually was. ‘Experience the heat and passion of a Cuban night’, invited the flyer, promising music, dancing, and ‘original Cuban fire’. Okay, it’s some kind of creative performance of Cuban culture, but more specifically? Nothing was clear.

Unfortunately, the performers in the opening act didn’t seem to know either. A nervous master of ceremonies attempted to inspire the uncertain, audience in heavily accented, sensuous English with tales of the heat of the Caribbean and taste of Cuban rum. The first dance was stilted and confused, with more swirling of skirts than actual dance, and the mostly middle aged audience which only half-filled the theatre did not seem impressed. I resigned myself to an evening of Cuban tourist board propaganda.

It didn’t take long after the awkward silence left by the MC for me to change my mind. The dance company (four women and three men) quickly proved themselves to be utterly spectacular. With a combination of Latin dancing and rock & roll acrobatics, they really did whisk the audience away, high heels kicked up past ears and eyes smouldering with passion. I’ve seen some pretty sensational costumes in my Cambridge Dancesport days, but these surpassed anything I could have imagined, each dress more dazzling than the last. Occasionally they went too far – excessive spangles and tacky glittery nylon, distracting from their immense talent – but mostly the colours and frills succeeded in adding a fantastical element to the performance.

The eight-piece band kept energy levels high with rhythms that had me unconsciously tapping my feet, and one musician in particular stole the audience’s hearts with one of his own compositions. However, the star of the show was an aging man (we were told later was seventy-seven) in a pale linen suit and white cap, straight out of a Bond film. As soon as he opened his mouth to sing, the chemistry in the auditorium soared. I don’t speak a word of Spanish, but nonetheless found myself enthralled, and if the ‘spirit of Cuba’ the MC repeatedly told us we ought to be feeling could be found anywhere in the show, it was down to him.

The show was not a complete success, what with the awkward MC continuing to wax lyrical about Cuban culture, and in several places the choreography was so surreal it ceased to make any sense. However, by the end the band had every member of the reserved Cambridge audience on their feet clapping, eyes sparkling with enthusiasm and energy. It’s not a show I would recommend to anyone, but as an admirer of Latin dance I found myself letting go of my reservations and giving myself up to the musicians. Hell, they were enjoying it, so why shouldn’t I?