Acosta Danza—a dose of Cuban sun

Rooster_00244 Johan Persson

Jenny Gilbert reviews Carlos Acosta’s Cuban troupe’s show—“Evolution”—at Sadler’s Wells (November 23). The “Evolution” tour resumes on March 3, at the Mayflower Southampton, and continues through the spring in various venues throughout the UK. Gilbert writes:

Second album, second novel, second tour programme – the follow-up is always tricky. But the timing couldn’t be better for Acosta Danza, the Havana-based dance company which made its UK debut in 2017. These 20 young Cubans, handpicked by Carlos Acosta and bursting with talent, can’t know how badly the UK needs a shot of their sunny optimism right now.

As before, the mode is eclectic, with a focus on the vibrant mishmash that is Cuban culture. Curiously, though, it doesn’t always arrive direct from the source. The strongest Latin American vibe on the programme comes courtesy of choreographer Pontus Lidberg, a Swede. Paysage, soudain, la nuit takes its inspiration from the gentle, jalapeno-flavoured music of Cuban composer-guitarist Leo Brouwer and the folkloric dance form known as rumba – which has nothing to do with anything that might appear on Strictly. The piece plays out before a field of barley, glistening in sunlight then mysterious under the moon as 10 young people meet, flirt, fall asleep under the stars, wake up and flirt some more. One couple claim our attention, but this is no major love story. They dance together, then rejoin their friends, the group’s joyous steps – at root deliciously simple – leaving you longing to join in. This is one of those rare instances of art-house dance in which everyone smiles at one another, and you love this company for it.

Faun [. . .] a duet by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, has been seen before at Sadler’s Wells, having been made for the Ballet Russes centenary a few years back. But with this cast it looks quite different – more tropical, more langorous, more animalistic. Tall, serene Zeleidy Crespo and Carlos Luis Blanco, more panther than faun, are individually astonishing in their ecstatic stretches and contractions. Interlinked, they become a single eight-legged creature traversing a forest floor. Debussy’s lush L’Après-midi d’un faun and electronic interpolations by Nitin Sawhney make your hair stand on end.

[. . .] The closer, Rooster, Christopher Bruce’s sassy setting of early Rolling Stones hits, has fewer pretensions, despite its focus on the vanity of fashionable young men in the Swinging Sixties. Here the stage wattage gets a boost from the active participation of Carlos Acosta. He may have hung up his ballet pumps but his energy, precision and sheer charm is undiminished and his young company clearly love having him dance among them. They must enjoy it while they can. He takes up his new post as Artistic Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January and this show will have to go on without him.

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