Carlos Acosta is an internationally acclaimed dancer who retired from The Royal Ballet in 2015 and set up Acosta Danza in his native Havana. Cuba is possibly better known for more traditional forms of music and dance, but there’s no questioning the incredible technical expertise and artistry on show tonight. The programme features the UK premieres of works by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Goyo Montero, Jorge Crecis, Justin Peck and Marianela Boán. As well as a bunch of breathtaking dancers.
El cruce sobre el Niàgara (the crossing over Niagara) is inspired by famous tightrope walker Charles Blondin, who crossed Niagara Falls with a man on his shoulders. This beautiful duet is performed by two men, unusual in dance, with stunning control. Julio Leon and Raul Reinoso are thrilling in their precise athleticism, competing but ultimately needing to co-operate to survive.
Belles-Lettres is the most traditional piece of the evening. Set to a romantic score by Cesar Franck, we have nine dancers, flowing skirts, pointe shoes and the sort of lyrical pas de deux beloved byclassical ballet fans. The dancers execute the intricate choreography with ease. And only fans of Strictly would know how hard it actually is to dance and smile.
Following the interval, the evening shifts a gear to a series of more modern pieces featuring less ballet and more angular, discordant choreography that bubbles with energy. Imponderable has 12 dancers, dressed in sultry black, performing a new piece created for the company by Spanish choreographer, Goyo Montero. Owen Belton assembles a score that draws on the music and poetic lyrics of Cuban folk musician Silvio Rodriguez. And the resulting piece seethes with smoky vitality.
It’s also the first outing of the evening for the stunning Marta Ortega, who moves like mercury across the stage, all the time in disorganised organised harmony with the other dancers. Cuban dancers often seem to bring a fluidity and sensuality to dance, whether classical or modern, that makes you wonder if they really have bones. And a gleeful flick of the hip that reminds you that they absolutely do. Imponderable feels current in its themes—the incomprehensible outsider—and perfectly judged as material for this new company.
Twelve is similarly boisterous. Described as a “dance-sport” piece, it features twelve dancers hurling neon-lit water bottles about the stage in impossible arcs that should prove impossible to catch—but aren’t. It’s noisy, funny and brashly challenging.
Mermaid is the star of the show. A duet between Marta Ortega and Mr Acosta himself, Ortega is a modern day mermaid, resplendent in pointe shoes, wine glass in hand, as tentative as a faun taking its first steps. Help shows up in the form of a handsome stranger who helps her adjust to life in this alien world. Choreographer Cherkaoui is an Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells and is known for his interest in different artistic and cultural practices.
This piece is beautifully set to music by Woojae Park, inspired by traditional Korean songs of the sea and also featuring a well known piano solo by Eric Satie. Aged all of 44, Acosta is superb—controlled, heart-felt and majestic. And Ortega is magnificent. As good an actor as dancer, she makes a grab for your heart from the moment of curtain up and leaves you caring very much about the fate of this twenty-first century siren.