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International dance star Carlos Acosta on bringing his new company to Norwich

PUBLISHED: 14:37 30 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:59 30 May 2018

Acosta Danza presents Imponderable. Photo: Johan Persson

Acosta Danza presents Imponderable. Photo: Johan Persson

JOHAN PERSSON

He set the international ballet world alight with his passionate performances. Now Carlos Acosta is bringing his acclaimed new dance company showcasing Cuban culture to Norwich Theatre Royal on their debut UK tour.

Carlos Acosta. Photo: Andrej UspenskiCarlos Acosta. Photo: Andrej Uspenski

For a generation of dance fans, Carlos Acosta is one of the greatest modern-day stars of the classical ballet world.

Born in Havana and trained at the National Ballet School of Cuba, he has gone on to dance with leading ballet companies including The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, the National Ballet of Cuba and the Houston Ballet.

He was a principal guest artist with the Royal Ballet from 2003 where he danced lead roles in all the classical productions until he retired from the company in 2015.

Acosta Danza presents Belles Lettres. Photo: Johan PerssonAcosta Danza presents Belles Lettres. Photo: Johan Persson

Following his exceptional career as a classical ballet star, he turned to contemporary dance and launched his company, Acosta Danza, and established his own dance school in Havana which opened its doors to its first students last September.

The culture and history of his home country have been important influences throughout his career and Acosta Danza is made up of the best dancers Cuba has to offer who have trained in both ballet and contemporary dance styles.

This week they arrive at Norwich Theatre Royal, one of a small number of venues on their debut UK tour, for a show, Debut, that will see Acosta himself make a guest appearance.

Acosta Danza presents Mermaid. Photo: Johan PerssonAcosta Danza presents Mermaid. Photo: Johan Persson

The tour sees them showcase the vibrancy and richness of Cuban culture and its artists. It includes new and existing pieces by Cuban choreographers who have rarely been seen outside the country, as well as new pieces from international choreographers who have taken inspiration from this unique Caribbean nation.

In Norwich the company will perform works by Cuban choreographer Marianela Boán, UK-based Jorge Crecis, Spanish dance-maker Goyo Montero, New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck and Sadler’s Wells associate artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Acosta will dance in the final piece called Mermaid, a duet with dancer Marta Ortega. The newly-commissioned dance is from Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, a Sadler’s Wells associate artist who is renowned for his cross-cultural collaborations and who choreographed the 2017 Grammys performance by Beyoncé.

Acosta Danza presents Twelve. Photo: Johan PerssonAcosta Danza presents Twelve. Photo: Johan Persson

The other pieces are El Cruce Sobre El Niágara (The Crossing over Niagara) from Marianela Boán - a duet for two male dancers and Imponderable by Goyo Montero is a new work for 12 dancers inspired by the work of Cuban folk musician Silvio Rodriguez who is known as the Cuban John Lennon.#

Belles-Lettres by Justin Peck is a work for nine dancers, performed mostly on pointe and originally made for the New York City Ballet; and Twelve by Jorge Crecis is an an athletic piece for 12 dancers first performed at the Royal Opera House.

Acosta Danza presents Twelve. Photo: Johan PerssonAcosta Danza presents Twelve. Photo: Johan Persson

What inspired you to set up your own school of dance in Cuba?

Cuba is a country of great dancers. Every year, young people graduate with excellent conditions for dance. I want to take advantage of that. I want everyone to admire the dance talent of my country, the Cuban culture, because Acosta Danza is more than a dance project. It has all the good things that exist in Cuba in terms of music, visual and performing arts.

How would you describe the style of dance that Acosta Danza performs and what makes it distinctive?

Acosta Danza develops a line that mixes contemporary dance with classical ballet. All the manifestations of the dance can be assumed by the company, the folkloric dance, the urban dances, always respecting our concept of mixing everything with the academic and contemporary dance.

Acosta Danza presents Belles Lettres. Photo: Johan PerssonAcosta Danza presents Belles Lettres. Photo: Johan Persson

What can you tell us about the dancers you will be bringing to Norwich and the choreographers you will be introducing to UK audiences?

I think the program we are going to present is a good example to show what Acosta Danza is. The dancers who will act come from different backgrounds, from contemporary dance and ballet, and all together dance works of different styles, all with the same level of quality. The audience will be able to see choreographies of the Cuban Marianela Boán; also from Justin Peck, Goyo Montero, Jorge Crecis and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. They are all excellent artists and their pieces allow the dancers of Acosta Danza to show their versatility.

Acosta Danza presents El Cruce. Photo: Johan PerssonAcosta Danza presents El Cruce. Photo: Johan Persson

There is a real passion for dance in Cuba combined with a strong work ethic – what is it about the island that creates this?

In Cuba dancing is something natural. You go down the street and people move and walk and make gestures that look like if they were dancing. For Cubans dance is very important. There is a completely free artistic education system that develops the talents of children, regardless of the social stratum they come from. Everyone who has talent can develop it academically. The result is a country with great musicians and excellent professional dancers, with a respect and an ethic formed in school classrooms.

Acosta Danza presents Imponderable. Photo: Johan PerssonAcosta Danza presents Imponderable. Photo: Johan Persson

Did you meet with any unexpected challenges and what are you most enjoying about running your own company?

The challenges always exist, I always face them. So far we have been able to overcome them and move forward happily. It gives me a tremendous enthusiasm the way in which the members of Acosta Danza have assumed my vision as if it were theirs. I posed my wish and opened a door for them and together we are developing projects that hopefully will be long lasting for the benefit of generations to come. The dancers are among the best in Cuba, great artists with great stage personalities. They are different between them, and they form a very attractive group, all together and when dancing as couples.

Acosta Danza presents Mermaid. Photo: Johan PerssonAcosta Danza presents Mermaid. Photo: Johan Persson

What are your hopes and ambitions for Acosta Danza?

I want it to become one of the best companies in the world, that the great choreographers find in it the ideal place to create their works. I know it sounds ambitious, but we are working to achieve it and we have had very good results.

Having danced for some of the world’s greatest ballet companies and in almost every classical role, do you miss performing classical ballet at the very highest level?

Of course! There were many years under that rigor. But I understand that it is time to develop other things that I always wanted to do and my career as a dancer did not allow me. Now comes the opportunity to do it and I am taking advantage of it. I demand the same rigor and discipline in Acosta Danza. And I’m still dancing.

• Acosta Danza: Debut, Norwich Theatre Royal, May 31-June 1, 7.30pm, £39.50-£10, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk


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