Famed for his leading roles in the Royal Ballet, Carlos Acosta has now created his own Cuban fusion dance company Acosta Danza and I was lucky enough to attend the first night at the Hippodrome Theatre.
El Cruce Sobre el Niágara (The crossing over Niagara)
This male duet was inspired by a Peruvian play where a famous tightrope walker, Charles Blondin, crosses Niagara Falls with a man on his shoulders.
The piece began with probably the most toned, muscular man I’ve ever seen performing a series of slow balanced moves from one side of the stage to the other. Due to the lighting, and I suppose the lack of clothing, his physique looked almost alien as you could see every small move he made reflect in the muscles of his body. It was certainly an unusual but thoroughly captivating start to the show. The piece continued with more upbeat and powerful movements performed by two men in near impossible synchronisation; from the position of their bodies to the height of their legs. At some points, during kicks and jumps they truly looked as one. The whole piece showed immense power and control as they conducted a series of challenging lifts. The most spectacular and astounding section was when one man sat upon the other’s shoulders, with neither holding each other, and began to spin at speed while also making a circular trajectory around the stage, I definitely was on the edge of my seat but they completed it seemingly with ease.
The second piece was in complete contrast to the first, and far more balletic in its composition. It consisted of 5 men and 4 women (dressed in beautiful long flowing blue dresses) performing a series of pas de deux (duets) while one man was the main soloist. This piece was less secure and clean than the previous performance and the dancers seemed far less controlled, including the soloist who certainly wasn’t the most flexible but did have beautiful musicality. However, the dancers’ great ballet technique and mesmerising spatial choreography made for an elegant and beautiful piece
Impoderable and Twelve
The third and fifth piece were fairly similar and involved more athleticism and fast paced music with nearly all the dancers in the company participating. ‘Impoderable’ used the addition of old Cuban folk stories to tell the story while utilising smoke machines and torches to make a very atmospheric piece that was visually brilliant. While ‘Imponderable’ was more dance focused with many fabulous solos the final piece, ‘Twelve’, was more trick based and involved throwing a lot, and I mean a lot, of water bottles with glow sticks in. It sounds unusual, and it was, but the skills and tricks they used to incorporate the bottles into their dancing (although I would have preferred more dancing) was incredible and suspenseful, keeping the whole audience enthralled. This piece was also the most Cuban with a lot of cheering, native dancing and a natural party vibe which portrayed how much the performers loved this piece.
The fourth piece of the evening was perhaps the one most anticipated as it was a duet with Carlos Acosta. However, despite his amazing talent and strength which were clearly visible in this piece, Marta Ortega, his partner in the piece, was definitely the star. She performed en pointe in a style that represented a mermaid learning to walk on two feet, yet the addition of a wine glass in her hand at the start suggested the piece was making links to modern society. Ortega was so technically strong and captivating that the show is really worth seeing for her and the intimacy she portrayed with Acosta.
The whole show was amazing and I definitely recommend people going to see it on tour. I feel contemporary dance can be a difficult sell to some audiences, as it can lose its enjoyment when it becomes, at times, almost too innovative. However, Acosta Danza is not that show, yes it is unusual at times, but the pure skill demonstrated by the dancers and choreographers could not be missed even by someone who would not usually choose to watch dance.
This performance was part of a collaboration between the Birmingham Hippodrome The Lowry and Sadler’s Wells to form a partnership called The Movement that aims to fund projects just like Acosta Danza. Additionally, in the post-show talk with Acosta himself he spoke of the way Cubans are using performance to promote themselves within the difficult society of Cuba. One way that Acosta aims to help this is through a school he runs for talented performers in Havana through his own foundation. He aims to renovate a historic building in Cuba to help give young Cubans a purpose and all the opportunities he had within dance. For more information visit: http://carlosacostafoundation.org/