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Carlos Acosta: A Celebration
Until 5 October, Royal Albert Hall, London, and then on tour
Reviewed by Jarlath O'Connell
Carlos Acosta, who has become quite the showman since his retirement from classical dance in 2016, returned to the Royal Albert Hall with his new Havana based company Acosta Danza, in a show billed as a celebration of his 30 years in dance.
Inevitably results were mixed but what distinguished it was the quality of the young Cuban dancers, trained in both classical and contemporary styles, who bring an earthiness to their performances. When the man himself appears though (and he dances in 3 of the 4 pieces), although he generously tries not to eclipse them, it is abundantly clear why he remains the star he is. This is no swan song but rather a clever vehicle for his singular talent.
The evening opened with a new collaboration, Mermaid, by the acclaimed Belgian choreographer Sid Larbi Cherkaoui, whose love of cross cultural mixing is to the fore here again. Like a fish out of water Maria Ortega, a modern dancer trapped in pointe shoes, tries to walk on dry land until a stranger, Acosta himself, comes to her rescue. It’s a simple take on the myth and her graceful movement is enhanced by an eerie score, played on a Korean zither by its composer Woojae Park. As the bond between them deepens the music blends into Satie’s Gymnopedie.
Goyo Montero’s piece Alrededor No Hay Nada is danced by the full company, to a soundtrack of Latin American poetry. Without an accompanying text a non Spanish speaking audience is left somewhat in the dark until a smooth jazz riff takes hold. With everyone, slick, darkly clad and bowler hatted it could be a Latino take on Fosse.
The highlight though is Acosta leading the company in Christopher Bruce’s exquisite homage to Swinging '60s London, Rooster. Bruce created this masterpiece for Rambert and they had to finally relent and say to their devoted fans that they would put it to rest. Thank Goodness Acosta is bringing it to new audiences again, and it is a perfect fit for this young, sexy, soulful ensemble. Yet again however Carlos himself outshines his students when it comes to the lightning fast reflexes which Bruce demands.
The piece takes eight classic Rolling Stones tracks to illustrate the battle of the sexes in Carnaby St circa 1968. Snake hipped, velvet jacketed young studs preen like cockerels but their chauvinistic posturing meets with just ironic amusement from the feisty young women they prey on. It’s a glorious celebration of youth and sex and freedom. Having absorbed these songs totally in his youth, Bruce invested every sinew of them with witty, startling, joyous movement and Acosta’s company has the musicality and zest to make them fly. The delight Acosta feels in performing them is palpable.
The evening ends with a one act version of Carmen which Acosta choreographed himself and where he performs Escamilio. This chap is more of an elegant, waist coated lothario than a preening toreador, however, while Laura Rodriguez and Javier Rojas impressed as a heartfelt Carmen and Don José.
This piece, though, keeps changing emotional color and never really settles. It swings from tender romantic pas de deux in the classical style to Afro Caribbean syncopation, to raucous Flamenco dancing on tables, where shirts are stripped off. Earlier on pants are torn off too in a Chippendales moment which typifies how muddled this piece is.
Acosta needs to be commended though for two things - giving the women vibrant, full blooded roles to dance and his decision to use a live orchestra.