Friday, July 10, 2009

MIF: Carlos Acosta

Last night I saw Carlos Acosta at the Lyric Theatre in the Lowry Centre. Acosta is the world's most famous and brilliant dancer, a Cuban by origin who has made the world fall in love with his passion and skill. I've never seen him before, so I was curious about just how good he might be; abandon all hype ye who enter here.

If other ballet dancers hate Acosta, I could understand why after his programme of three dances (Afternoon of a Faun (Jerome Robbins/Debussy), A Suite of Dances (Robbins/Bach) and Apollo (Balanchine/Stravinsky)): once he has danced these roles, it seems like no-one else ever can. He incarnates such beauty that it seems only natural he takes them.

For example, A Suite of Dances is set to four movements from Bach's Six Suites for Solo Cello, each one with a different mood and tone of movement. From the first movement, slightly hesitant and restrained, to the fourth, where Acosta spins and cartwheels and almost ecstatically jives, he has created both beauty and personality. There is nothing forced, nothing harsh.

Apollo was the second half entire. It showed Apollo being educated by three of the Muses, each of whom took turns front stage and solo, but it was when Apollo was dancing with all three, graceful in control, or in his pas de deux with Terpsichore, where he proved eminently responsive to and in harmony with his partner, that we saw the wonder of Acosta. His precision and passion combined, each move invested with fluency and meaning. It was perfect acting without words. The final image of Apollo and the Muses arrayed as one like a bird in flight took the breath away.

There was (in the first act) a response to Apollo, a new work called Young Apollo choreographed by the Texan Adam Hougland with music by Britten. This was a pas de deux which started before the curtain rose and the music sounded and continued after it fell and became silent, implying the eternity of this dance, as did the way in which Junor de Oliveira Souza swung Anais Chalendard around him, gracefully yet erotically. This was indeed an erotic piece, the sort of dance the libidinous Apollo might have delighted in, with sharp, identical moves by both dancers evincing their passions.

The music - provided by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Andre de Ridder - was sharp and passionate, with Philip Glass' Overture for string orchestra played with urgency and crispness.

Tonight I'm seeing Rufus Wainwright's new opera, Prima Donna. Stand by for thrills, spills and (probably) pills.

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