The real deal: Acosta Danza in Debut

Birmingham Hippodrome
October 20, 2017

Phil Preece

Legendary Royal Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta couldn’t be reproached if he never did anything again but tour the world capitalising on past fame. But he’s gone one much better than that: he’s completely reinvented himself with a company of Cuban dancers to match, all young, fit, clever, awesomely talented and Debut, their showcase of eclectic dance pieces, is well, stunningly good. If you go theatre-hopping the sterling rule is, keep an open mind, and if you do, you might just find something as good as this.

With five short pieces measuring five contrasting moods Acosta here shows exactly what he can do and it really is very fine indeed. Without giving a blow-by-blow account, the very good news is these dancers are at the top of their game.

First up, Marianela Boan’s El Cruce Sobre El Niagra (The Crossing Over Niagara to you) channels the exploits of Blondin to music by Messiaen. In it, two guys enact a carrying-across the famous falls during which they somehow, miraculously change places; sheer brinksmanship here depending on a breath-holding degree of trust.

Justin Peck’s Belles Lettres sees a group of beautifully dressed dancers enact a sort of Rite of Spring-type celebration of life and liberty but without the sacrifice, an evocation of finding sheer joy in life itself.

Acosta Danza in Imponderable by Goyo MonteroPhoto Johan Persson
Acosta Danza in Imponderable by Goyo Montero
Photo Johan Persson

Goyo Montero’s Imponderable is darker but brought shouts of delight for his intense choreography, executed with a matching fervour by its celebratory joy of collaboration among these superb dancers.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Jason Kittelberger’s he powerfully evocative Mermaid has dancer Marta Ortega as said creature wearing Hussein Chalayan’s iconic red dress and struggling in pointe shoes, a fish literally out of water, supported with elemental power by Acosta himself.

A lot of new dance looks unnecessarily difficult to perform and is consequently almost as difficult to like. But there is an unexpected jewel in the evening’s crown. I’m not going to spoil the surprise but the finesse of Jorge Crecis and Fernando Balsera’s dance-sport piece Twelve, with its final ‘throwing bottles’ act is like nothing seen before on land or sea, and occupies that delightful space where high art meets music hall, its most recent parallel the delightful Wilson and Kepple act without Betty in Matthew Bourne’s iconic Red Shoes.

Acosta Danza in Twelve by Jorge CrecisPhoto Johan Persson
Acosta Danza in Twelve by Jorge Crecis
Photo Johan Persson

Twelve is assured art with a sense of, among many essential other things that greatest rarity of all, humour, and as a stunning finale to the evening received a standing ovation; and not the usual tired kind where people feel they’ll get cheated out of their value for money if an obligatory stand up is not part of the deal. This was a genuine, spontaneous connection between audience and performers that says this is really something out of the ordinary, not precious, not pretentious, just good, and actually, even better than that, here, of itself, perfect, now. I’d actually like to see it again asap just to take in the many things I must have missed in this rich and yet somehow unexpectedly astringent brew, as if all faint traces of dross have been evaporated out and only the good left in.

At the final curtain prime mover Acosta stood modestly far back while his stars took their bows.

Trust me, Acosta Danza is the real thing.