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Ballet Revolución is Ballet unleashed as only the Cubans know how. The Guardian describes it is ‘a bit like watching an MTV miscellany while doing cardio in the gym: it pumps you up, delivers an endorphin high, and afterwards you feel rather exhausted.’ In practical terms this is a showcase of a plethora of dance styles and techniques including street, breakdancing, contemporary, ballet and Cuban traditional performed by an 18-strong company of exceptional Cuban dancers who have an abundance of flair, elasticity, versatility and energy. The choreography has been done by the Australian Aaron Cash and Cuban Roclan González Chavez. We caught up last month with Roclan in Havana as the group was practicing for a show in Cuba and getting ready for their wordwide tour.
Roclan González Chavez: “I am Roclan, a Cuban from Cuba.”
Perhaps that is all you need to know. Actually it would be a gross understatement to one of Cuba’s most brilliant choreographers. We catch up with him as the show is being rehearsed on the 9th floor of the Teatro Nacional. Dancers of different ages and backgrounds form a group that is as eclectic as the show itself. Music from various countries played live by a band of Cuban musicians and international guest vocalists, neoclassical ballet, contemporary dance, folklore, acrobatics, popular dance and large amounts of excitement are combined in Ballet Revolución which has been on tour around different countries for the past year.
While the company’s regisseur, Marina Villanueva, teaches a ballet class, choreographer Roclan González tells us that this is a commercial show aimed at “showcasing the talent of Cuban dancers.“
From Roclan we learn that he is used to working at night and sleeping by day, and hates being woken up before 11 o'clock; that he studied at the National School of Art, specializing in folklore; and that he later spent one more year studying to be a musical comedian in the School of Variety Theatre.
“I did some singing, some acting, and made a fool of myself in some performances, even as a presenter on TV. But what I really like to do is choreograph. I think if I was born again I would like to be a choreographer.”
Roclan, a candid man who has a way with words, tells us that in 1998 he joined the Cuban Television Ballet as dancer and choreographer. This experience allowed him to work with many TV directors as well as producers of big shows. This includes two important names in Cuban show biz: Santiago Alfonso and Tomás Morales, who is the current director of the famous Tropicana Cabaret. During his television phase, he met Cristy Domínguez, dancer, choreographer and director of the TV Ballet. He mentions Cristy’s name over and over again with great love and respect: “She is one of the few people I've seen really help young dancers, and she does this from deep inside, from the heart. She is mother, friend, teacher, choreographer, director, artist. She is all this and much more.”
Roclan is well known in Cuba as a choreographer, especially for his involvement in many musical TV shows, music festivals such as Cubadisco, the Lucas video awards, plus music videos and concerts.
Outside Cuba, Roclan’s distinctive choreographies, with Jon Lee as his international promoter and producer, are well known, having toured successfully with shows like “Lady Salsa” and “Kings of Salsa.” The latter, which toured 35 cities in the United States, used music that had been especially composed for Roclan by young Cuban musicians, something Roclan is extremely proud of.
A staunch defender of the African roots in Cuban culture, his choreographies delve into folklore and popular dances. “Musicals and popular shows sell better than classical ballet or contemporary dance, and if you want to see contemporary dance, you go to the Netherlands or Germany; they have so many companies and use the latest techniques in dance. But they don’t have what we have,” he declares. This is why he confesses to being a supporter of commercial musicals as well as a respectful admirer of folklore and variety show dancers. In his opinion, it is equally difficult to do 12 perfect pirouettes and knowing and mastering all our popular dances.