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BWW Review: ACOSTA DANZA UP CLOSE, Royal Opera House

BWW Review: ACOSTA DANZA UP CLOSE, Royal Opera House

BWW Review: ACOSTA DANZA UP CLOSE, Royal Opera House One of the questions I've never resolved about dance is whether one gets more from a show if you're five or 25 rows back. Near, one sees better the extraordinary grace, the way the body twists in and out of almost abstract shapes, the sheer effort: at a distance, one sees better the relationship between the performers, the interplay of dancers, lighting and space, the means by which narrative is built.

Carlos Acosta returns to his old stomping ground (now there's an ill-judged phrase) with his own company, having left classical ballet four years ago. He presents a mixed bill of five pieces - all, as the title promises, up close.

The first is the best. Cuban dancers (all the troupe hail from that Caribbean nation) Mario Elias and Raul Reinoso are on a tightrope above Niagara Falls, Marienela Boan's piece El Cruce Sobre El Niagara based on Alonso Alegria's play. The men are simultaneously fragile, precarious as they feel for the rope with their feet, but dominant, their widespread arms an aid to balance, but also a symbol of man's taming of nature at its most vividly violent and relentless. And man it is, the bodies idealised, like Leonardo's anatomy drawings animated, images of man as he can be.

Things are different in Soledad, another longer dance in which a couple endure the ups and downs of domestic life. Chevela Vargas and Gidon Kremer's music had a pleasing touch of Mexican Jacques Brel to it, but the highlight is Marta Ortega's wonderful acting, toying with her man and the audience, charming, sexy and scary.

The man himself brings matters to a close with Two, Russell Maliphant's fierce seven minutes of psychological escape. Trapped by Michael Hulls' lit cell, Acosta does not panic, but finds that his arms, shoulders and head can be twisted and turned and eventually whirled into a machine that defies its confinement and defeats the eye in its intensity. It is an emancipation wrought entirely from within.

There are flourishes in the other dances, but longueurs too. Sometimes they can be welcome as it gives us chance to ponder just how Cuban the night has become. Though all the dancers work internationally, there is no question as to their origins. As I remarked elsewhere, they could almost be drawn from the legendary Cuban Olympic boxing squads, both in physique and attitude.

Acosta Danza Up Close is at the Linbury Theatre until 24 February.

Photo Foteini Christofilopoulou.

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