May 7, 2016
Gala-style evenings are usually about the dance, pure and simple. But Carlos Acosta’s Classical Farewell is very much about the man and the occasion. Right from the opening scene of he and the other dancers arriving in warm-up gear, greeting each other, stretching and loosening up, to the final goodbyes, the sense is very much of a bunch of friends getting together for a private celebration, albeit one that lucky us are privy to.
The evening is also a bit of a look to the future. Rather than wheel out all the big warhorse roles in which he made his name, the focus is as much on his fellow dancers, all experienced names from Cuba. That, of course, is where Acosta’s new venture Acosta Danza lies, a company with its own style and identity, and that will contribute to the development of dance on the Island. Indeed, Acosta only dances in three pieces out of the twelve on offer, and in only one pas de deux, not that it seemed to disappoint the sell-out audience who found plenty to admire among the others.
Best of the Carlos appearances comes not in a classical excerpt, but in the Ben Van Cauwenbergh solo, Les Bourgeois. It seems to crop up in galas everywhere these days (probably too much), but how nice to see it done with so much meaning and feeling, and with plenty of humour. While Acosta makes the words of the Jacques Brel song feel important, unlike many others he never overdoes things. For once, the tricks very much play second fiddle, even though all performed excellent. It really reached out the audience and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it done better.
For classical Acosta it was the Diana and Actaeon pas de deux that closed the first half. It gave the opportunity for him to show his still wonderful partnering and turns, even if the leaps are not as high as they once were. Laura Rodriguez was delicious as his Diana.
But the best dance of the evening did not feature the man of the moment. Deborah Sánchez and Enrique Corrales were quite simply outstanding in the elegant and sublime End of Time pas de deux by Ben Stevenson that follows the interval. The duet features a man and woman who find strength in each other as the last humans on earth. In their dappled, flesh-coloured body stockings the couple certainly exuded a sense of hopelessness, of nothingness, except for each other. Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata in G minor is the perfect accompaniment. You could have heard a pin drop, so mesmerised were the audience, who then gave it the best non-Carlos response of the evening, and rightly so.
The second part of the show in general is more successful than that first, not least because it is more varied, and has the more interesting, less well-known choreography. Rodriguez and Luis Valle exuded passion in the pas de deux from Acosta’s own Carmen. Raúl Reinoso’s Anadromous, danced by Gabriela Lugo is a strong solo about the desire to live.
Less successful was Van Cauwenbergh’s Je ne regrette rien. Edith Piaf’s classic is just too powerful and comes with too much meaning and too many associations. The preceding A Buenos Aries, Gustavo Mollajoli’s tango inspired duet to Piazolla, simmers nicely but never really sizzles as one feels it should.
The first half of the show is classical through and through. Diana and Actaeon apart, the stand out excerpt was the pas de deux from MacMillan’s Winter Dreams, which built and built nicely, Luis Valle’s Vershinin in particular was full of dramatic passion for Ely Regina Hernández’s Masha. Rather less appealing was the Act II pas de deux from Swan Lake, in which Gabriela Lugo was a rather cold Odette to Enrique Corrales’ Siegfried. The noisy pointe shoes didn’t help either. Somewhere in the following minutes however Lugo clearly discovered her avian side, as her Dying Swan was beautifully fluid and touching. Most disappointing was the Act II pas de deux from La Sylphide, in which neither Sánchez nor Javier Rojas got even close to the necessary sharpness, lightness and ballon demanded by Bournonville’s fiendish choreography.
Acosta and his friends say goodbye with Georges Garcia’s upbeat Majisimo, a feast of classicism and colour with a Hispanic edge. It fits the music, from Massenet’s Le Cid like a glove, although more dancers would create a better atmosphere. Following the pattern of the evening, Acosta was content to be one of the crowd, more than once allowing the others to take centre stage.
Only of course, he’s not one of the crowd. And at the end, as the dancers said their personal goodbyes, we seem him sit alone, perhaps reflecting on what was, and what is to be. At the delightfully relaxed curtain calls, the dancers, now back in their warm-up gear, grinned broadly, as did the audience who stood and cheered. Yes, it was that sort of evening.
Carlos Acosta: A Classical Farewell continues on tour.