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A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Udderbelly 4 Festival at Southbank Centre


Underbelly productions presents


Havana Rumba!


Sonora La Calle in Havana Rumba!


The hottest Cuban salsa party in town!

E4 Udderbelly
30 May – 8 July 2012


Having seen and savoured warmly uplifting Havana Rakatan at London’s Peacock Theatre a few years ago, I looked forward to Havana Rumba at Udderbelly with eager anticipation. I was not disappointed! Like its forerunner, Rumba surges with buoyant energy and colourfully imaginative choreography and dancing which will literally have you soaring from your seat in the desire to join in. But here, clapping and bobbing your head in place just won’t do - you’ll have to do as you’re asked by the cast and DANCE!

Billed as ‘an intoxicating cocktail of Rumba, Salsa, Rum and Reggaeton’, this is one show designed to elevate the spirits, and it easily does that and more. Easy as it is for those watching this veritable cavalcade of colour, dizzying dance, pulsating rhythms and lush song, it is definitely, strenuous and then some for the gifted, dynamic and focused dancers and musicians bringing its percolating mix to life!

Six young dancers, three male, three female lead us on an invigorating journey through the history of Cuban Rumba, drawing on the influences of the streets and districts in a spicy, sun and rum drenched cacophony of exciting, often narrative movement and cyclically funny and bittersweet choreography, speaking of life in all of its happy and trying moments, ultimately exuding triumph and determination.

Reigning star and undisputed king of traditional Cuban dance, ‘El Maestro’ Eric Turro, who has also performed with world renowned Buena Vista Social Club, wows, drawing oohs and aaahs as he keeps the three young ladies on a string he holds in one hand for two, twirling a third with his other, never missing a graceful beat of the fiery but smooth music, infectiously played by Sonora La Calle Cuba’s legendary salsa band. It’s Turro’s mission to carry the torch for tradition amid the fiery younger dancers and it’s a task he performs with talent, respect and huge amounts of originality, fondness and charm.


Eric Turro "El Meestro" in action in Havana Rumba!


This stunning show is also graced with the dynamic presence and talents of singer/dancer Juventino, or "El Chico Divino”, as the Latin heartthrob is known to his fans, from Charanga Habanera, Cuba's sizzling hot Timba super group, and he offers contemporary contrast to the already sizzling mix being served to instantly won-over audience members cum fledgling Cuban style dancers, eager for more, more, more!

And more is what there’s plenty of here:  heady percussive rhythms, swooning/sassing young female dancers in form fitting costumes and how do they dance in them heels, sturdy males with testosterone blaring and nostrils flaring as they circle, momentarily capture, and pursue the women again, irresistibly infectious, multi-textured music, destined to escalate your pulse to a much hotter pace, intoxicating song, Cuban dancing - traditional and hybrid, the former oozing love and timelessly romantic elegance, the latter, ever shifting towards a future ripe with more far reaching hybrids of movement and culture.

One intriguing segment, focuses on the ‘Golden Age of Cuban Music’, the 1950’s, when countless great local musicians and dancers peopled  Havana’s streets,  offers demonstrations of Mombo and Cha Cha, showing us how their patterns and inflections affected Rumba, ‘the music of the people’, which originated ‘in the streets.’ In one lively scenario set in a market, one woman swept up, while another offered flowers, and a male hawked wares from a stall when a taut dance, with distinct echoes of Africa ensued, as two males seemingly, competed, waving machetes as they danced, in a mesmerizing show of skill and concentration, in time to rapidly paced music, peppered with tension heightening percussion.

The band, Sonora La Calle, boasting some of Cuba’s finest musicians would be reason enough to attend this show in their own right. In fact, the only possible way Rumba could be improved would be to stage it in a real dance hall, with room enough for its fans to dance along, from beginning to end, and, after!

The Udderbelly’s a great venue to see a show in, especially one as vital and lively as this, as it’s larger than you’d think from outside, but cosy within, due to intimate layout, with not a bad seat in the house.

Of all the artistic mediums reviewed, dance inspires the most exclamation points, particularly when it’s as vibrant and joyously artful as it is in this show! Before viewers’ minds or bodies can pause for a moment, they’re carried along on the next reviving wave of expressive energy, leaving them to vicariously enact the exuberance of life through the sensual call and response of the performers, enabling us to collectively, toss off dusty repression in favour of living and breathing music and DANCE!



The spirited cast of Havana Rumba!


London Underground and Udderbelly
Jubilee Gardens, off Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

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