Last week as the whole country celebrated the Diamond Jubilee we flew Virgin to Havana to be part of Cuba’s British Week (see blog passim), a seven day event packed with music, art, fashion and you guessed: Dance! Someone needs to keep on doing the patriotic ambassadorial field work while everyone back home enjoyed a two day holiday. Our hosts were the British Embassy (who else could get American Annie through immigration without hardly a visa? Hold on, I remember seeing a small hand printed paper exchanging hands – ah, that was our visa!*)
We arrived late at night, checked in at the swanky Bella Habana Hotel, and went to bed. The following morning we all head out to Teatro Miramar, our ‘home’ for the next 6 days, to rehearse ‘Still’ and do a reccie of the theatre. Everyone was eager to explore the beautiful and charming city but there was still work to be done. In the afternoon we hit town, Malecon, beach and mojitos, breaking out in smaller groups to ensure we could cover all, although most groups managed to cover mojitos.
The next days were a mixture of work, heat and general slow pace, with a show in the far but leafy Miramar district. The night invariably ended in the Hotel’s ‘parqueo’ alfresco bar, facing the ministerio de la agricultura, where the challenge was to drink your beer before it got warm (about 3 minutes per can, which led to too many cans). The food in our hotel was so good I think I had the fish and rice everyday.
Another highlight was the air con in the theatre which was always kept at maximum by our loyal friend Juan Carlos (it really encouraged us to leave town and go to work). The shows were great, specially ‘Still’ which seems to come back to life each time with more force and energy, ravishing the audience on the way. The improvisation sections were particularly exciting with lots of shouting and clapping, climbing on chairs to have photos taken, clothes being taken off, people being carried down the aisle at full speed – and that was just the audience members joining in. Just imagine what our lot wasn’t up to.
We also got to meet Yanel, a talented and tenacious disabled dancer who’s been working professionally in Cuba for 20 years. Yanel and her husband Omar came to both our workshops and most of the shows, and I hope one day she comes to one of our labs. It was also great to have Rebecca with us for this trip and she got close to persuading Sir Richard Branson to give us an upgrade on the way back (When was the last time he flew economy? Who checks for quality control in that section?).
The 4 shows were a success with standing ovations every night. Unfortunately they were not full as there seems to be a bit of a problem with transport in Cuba. We will just need to go back. Check out this review (and brush up your Spanish)
*And, just to be clear, we did indeed have visas but turned out they were waiting for us in the official office on the wrong side of the border and our photocopies weren’t going to get us through! All was fine in the end and the real visas arrived! It was the first of the interesting official procedures we were to encounter in Cuba.