BWW Review: CARLOS ACOSTA: A CELEBRATION, Royal Albert Hall
Nearly two years ago to the day, Carlos Acosta presented A Classical Farewell at London's Royal Albert Hall, a mix of solos and pas de deux with his esteemed Royal Ballet colleagues to celebrate his career.
Fast-forward to 2018 and he's still saying farewell, but now with a focus on the future through his dynamic Cuban company, Acosta Danza.
There are sadly a number of issues when it comes to the Albert Hall as a venue for dance that hinder the enjoyment of the evening. The flat level arena seating makes for, frankly, terrible sight lines. In the opening contemporary numbers where dancers repeatedly drop to the floor, arena-based audience will lose sight of them completely.
A quick glance at ticket prices informs me that seats here cost £79. If you're of small stature these are to be avoided; many located here on press night moved elsewhere after the interval.
Seating aside, and what of the dancing one could see? Act One features new works, offering a platform for the dancers of Acosta Danza to enjoy the spotlight. Christopher Bruce's Rooster is a much-needed injection of joy and colour to a rather dingy few opening numbers. Acosta repeatedly indulges the audience with the signature swagger of the piece, jerking head movements and other flashes of charisma that has fans whooping and cheering in no time.
He is ably supported by his lively company who perform Bruce's choreography joyfully. There's a great sense of freedom as Marta Ortega is thrown up in the air and caught again in the liberating "Ruby Tuesday" number, while Julio Leon commits wholeheartedly to the demanding emotions of the "Paint It Black" segment.
Rooster is preceded by two new works. A pas de deux for Acosta and the aforementioned Ortega, entitled Mermaid, again isn't aided by the Albert Hall setting, which doesn't lend itself to the darkness of piece. It's hard to engage, but it hits its stride eventually.
Ortega writhes against Acosta's towering strength, a real life "fish out of water". It's a physical number choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui that entices further as it goes along, but the water falling onto the stage in the final moments is a little cliched. Nevertheless, the number is still danced wholeheartedly by its two performers.
Act Two is dedicated to Acosta's 2015 ballet of Carmen, previously performed by the Royal Ballet, which received mixed reviews. The addition of more substantial staging to the Albert Hall stage, a key focus for the eyeline and a live orchestra enhanced the experience no end. Laura Rodriguez is a beguiling, knowing Carmen, a confident actress but also technically secure to allows the audience to enjoy her easy seduction of Jose (Javier Rojas) and Escamillio (Acosta).
The pas de deux's are beautifully fluid and the storytelling is done with much greater clarity than previously reported. The rowdy set-pieces fizzle amongst the table stamping and flamenco motifs. Acosta takes some time to appear but naturally once he does, the focus is permanently shifted as the audience admire what is some glorified strutting with a pirouette or two thrown in. Not that it matters.
A Celebration is a confused affair, but to witness Acosta onstage is still undoubtedly an occasion not to be missed. His young, energetic company display great promise for the future, but it's still Acosta's name that fills the vast Albert Hall auditorium.
Image credit: Tristram Kenton