Just months shy of the worldwide pandemic in 2020, I was fortunate enough to step into the Caribbean island of Cuba – a time-trapped city filled with Neoclassical and Baroque architectural buildings of old and sleek-looking vintage cars. But what impressed me most was the sizzling beat of the people. Music and dance everywhere I turn – in the bars, restaurants, streets, and even back alleys. The electrifying energy was infectious, and unlike any other places I have been to. It was then that I finally understood why acclaimed writer Ernest Hemingway decided to make this very city his home. So when I heard that the highly raved Ballet Revolucion – which melds contemporary dance and ballet infused with Cuban spirit – is coming to Singapore, I was curious about the performance. So I chatted with two of the show's choreographers, Roclan Chavez, who hails from Cuba, and Aaron James Cash, an Australian multi-hyphenate actor/singer/choreographer based in Los Angeles.
Specially handpicked from the variety of West End shows, the Ballet Revolucion performed for Queen Elizabeth's 60th Jubilee for her Royal Variety Show in 2012. Having toured Europe and Australia, it is now Singapore's chance to witness the sizzling dance performance that keeps the Afro-Cuban roots alive without losing the essence of ballet.
What is the Ballet Revolucion all about? Why the word “revolucion”?
Roclan Chavez: We are a fusion of contemporary dance and ballet. "Revolucion” expresses the dance technique when two different genres come together.
You are both based in different locales and time zones; Aaron Cash is based in LA, while Roclan Gonzalez is based in Havana, Cuba. What technical difficulty was there in developing a revolutionary show like this one? What was the collaboration process like?
Roclan Chavez: The most crucial responsibility from my side is to keep the Cuban spirit, the Cuban technique and our Afro-Cuban roots alive without losing the ballet technique.
Aaron Cash: The process was more straightforward than you would expect. I went to Cuba for eight weeks, and we shared our time trading off days. But, of course, the most challenging part was being away from my family for that long.
How different will Ballet Revolucion be from other ballet performances? What can the audience expect?
Roclan Chavez: We are presenting two completely different techniques in one show. The audience will enjoy diverse dancers who can perfectly dance to every style. As diverse as the show is, the audience will receive a beautiful energy and passion that lives within every dancer.
Aaron Cash: It's a commercial dance show with a Cuban perspective. All the different styles reflect our incredibly diverse and talented group of dancers. Some are stronger in Classical, some in Contemporary. We create a lot of different flavours, so there's something for everyone.
The dance performance is the fusion of two cultures: American and Cuban. What are the cultural similarities and differences between the two? Did you encounter any culture shock moments while working together?
Roclan Chavez: There was never a culture shock moment here. The dance is the language of the body. We are showing all our emotions through our bodies. And this is a universal language.
Aaron Cash: Dance is a universal language other than Spanish, and English language difference, we all gelled well. It was more inspirational things. The passion with which the Cubans work is so invigorating and exciting to collaborate with. That's the most significant gift for me working on this show.
Could you share with us the preparation work that goes behind the scenes?
Roclan Chavez: The preparation is always delightful, mainly because I have known the dancers since they went to school. We are like family together. This helps the process.
Aaron Cash: We usually bounce ideas between each other regarding new choreographies. It's very much a collaboration.
How difficult was it to round up suitable performers?
Aaron Cash: At first, it was hard because we were an unknown quantity, but as the years went on and our reputation grew, we have many Cuban Dancers wanting to work with us now.
Any behind-the-scenes anecdotes or exciting facts to share?
Roclan Chavez: Every day feels like home, like playing with my brothers and sisters.
Aaron Cash: In 2012, we were invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth's 60th jubilee for her Royal Variety Show. We were chosen out of so many shows on the West End at the time, which was very special.
The acclaimed dance performance was previously presented in Singapore in 2012. So how different would it be in May 2023's Marina Bay Sands Theatre show?
Roclan Chavez: It will be the same show with the same energy, passion and love. But with a 90% new cast.
Aaron Cash: We have primarily new dancers – young dancers whose creative gifts differ from the other dancers we've had through the years. So that and with the combination of new choreographies, it’s like a new show.
Are there any star moments to watch out for?
Roclan Chavez: All moments in the show are boom!!!!
Aaron Cash: Concierto De Arunjuez, the chair dance still the most iconic piece of the company.
What was it like to perform in Europe and Australia? How different was it?
Roclan Chavez: The audience reaction is everywhere the same. This makes us very happy and content.
Aaron Cash: It doesn’t matter whether it’s Europe or Australia. By the show's end, the audience is always on their feet, cheering, clapping and loving what they've just seen.
Singapore audiences have been known to be a sedated and polite group. Will the Ballet Revolution be able to rouse the latent passion in the local audience?
Roclan Chavez: I am sure "dance" will do its magic.
Aaron Cash: Without a doubt. Cubans are pure passion personified. Their energy and love of dance are infectious.
What else would you like to share with the Yahoo audience?
Roclan Chavez: I wish for the audience to come and enjoy the show and feel the dancers' love and sincerity.
Aaron Cash: This show is all heart. This show is for you if you want a fabulous time for the whole family. There's something for everyone. Cubans are very special.
Who's Roclan Chavez?
Born in Cuba, Roclan Gonzalez Chavez studied at the prestigious Escuela Nacionales the Arte in Havana, graduating in 1996 with distinction in contemporary and folkloric dance. He was the only one in his cohort to be awarded a post-graduate scholarship to study choreography. Since then, he has worked extensively throughout Latin America and studied many styles from this region, from Brazilian Samba and contemporary ballet to Argentinean Tango.
Who's Aaron Cash?
Originally from Brisbane, Aaron Cash is a talented performer and one of the original “Tap Dogs". A multi-hyphenated talent who acts, sings, and choreographs, he enjoyed an impressive 10-year touring relationship as Cher’s lead dancer. He has been featured in films such as Titanic and Hook, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Bolt. His television credits include Scrubs, Nip/Tuck and the series debut of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, to name a few.