Carlos Acosta is one of those male dancers whose looks and virtuosity helped him to break through into the awareness of non-specialist fans.
In years gone by female journalist colleagues would go weak at the knees at the news he was going to appear at The Lowry – but wouldn’t have taken much notice of even the world’s greatest ballet companies also being in the schedule.
But Acosta was a name for the box office to conjure with. His rags-to-riches story, finding his path through the Cuban talent-spotting and hothouse-rearing system, made him a legend, and his name on a bill was a virtual guarantee of a sell-out, even if he only actually danced for one or two numbers in a complete programme.
The world of dance has always been aware of star quality and the power of a name: think of the way Darcey Bussell was projected as the prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet in London… and English National Ballet, we hear, is soon to say goodbye to Tamara Rojo, not only a wonderful artistic director, but someone who could cast herself in the most taxing star roles without apology.
Acosta created his own 12-strong company of young Cubans, Acosta Danza, in 2015 and brought it on a UK tour, which included The Lowry, in 2017. At the start of 2020 he was appointed director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, whose revival of Sir Peter Wright’s magnificent Swan Lake was one of the last big shows we saw in the theatre before Covid closed everything down.
Everything has been thrown into sixes and sevens for much of the time since, but, as luck would have it, two shows with the Acosta name on them are now coming to The Lowry in close succession. It’s almost as if he’s competing with himself, and it will be interesting to see which benefits more (though hopefully both will).
First up is Acosta Danza, on February 22-23, with 100% Cuban; and then from March 2-5 Birmingham Royal Ballet presents Acosta’s own version of the great classical ballet (music by Ludwig Minkus), Don Quixote.
The first is a rescheduled visit of a tour under the Dance Consortium umbrella (a group of 18 large-scale UK venues promoting contemporary dance), which began in 2020 but never reached The Lowry. The show is described as “a new mixed bill of five works, all infused with Cuba’s rich music and dance influences”, three new works by young Cuban choreographers and two from the original schedule.
The three new pieces are Liberto, a duet created by company dancer Raúl Reinoso in a mix of folk and contemporary dance styles; Hybrid, a commission for the company’s 12 dancers from Norge Cedeno Raffo, and De Punta a Cabo by Alexis Fernández (aka Maca) another piece for the whole company, set against the backdrop of the Malecón, the most famous seaside avenue in Cuba. The two revivals are Pontus Lidberg’s Paysage, Soudain, la nuit, and Spanish choreographer Maria Rovira’s solo Impronta.
Acosta says: “I look forward to sharing the 100% Cuban programme and showcasing some of the finest Cuban dancers I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Acosta’s Don Quixote is an update of the first full-length work he created (after Minkus) for the Royal Ballet in London, with new designs by Tim Hatley. As the Don sets out on a quest to track down his true love, with his loyal friend and servant Sancho Panza at his side, he finds himself embroiled in an unlikely adventure of love and dreams. Acosta says: “This is a completely new production of Don Quixote with new concept and designs, re-orchestration, new elements of the choreography, new colours, a whole new palette.
“Don Quixote is really popular with dancers – it is a ballet for virtuosos. Also, it’s a production which gives opportunities to a large ballet company because there are a lot of roles for everyone, so it’s a real showcase.”