Dance superstar Carlos Acosta brings two shows to Theatre Royal
- Credit: ©Tristram Kenton
Ballet superstar Carlos Acosta brings his critically acclaimed Cuban company Acosta Danza to Norwich Theatre Royal this week for the European premiere of their new show, Evolution. Emma Lee met him ahead of the performance.
Watching the story of his life on the big screen is always an emotional experience for Carlos Acosta.
Released earlier this year, and based on his autobiography No Way Home, Yuli follows his journey, from growing up in poverty in Cuba to joining the Royal Ballet.
And what a journey it was, from (very) reluctant ballet dancer to one of the art's superstars.
"Every time I watch it I cry," he says.
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"I had to live my father's dreams, save myself and make my father proud. My parents and my sister are all over the movie and they are not around."
Acosta retired from the Royal Ballet in 2015 and has gone on to form Acosta Danza.
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Based in Havana, the company is currently touring its new show, Evolution, which has its European premiere at Norwich Theatre Royal this week and in a real treat for dance fans Acosta himself will be performing.
Cuba's culture and vibrancy have always had a big influence on Acosta's career and as well as nuturing new dance and choreography talent it celebrates his roots and heritage.
"Dance was always a part of me. In Cuba everbody dances," he says.
Evolution is a programme of new and existing works - a fusion of Cuban culture and folklore with ballet and contemporary dance.
"Contemporary can be anything - ballet is the art of pretending, reflecting a society that is long gone," he says.
Acosta is dancing in Rooster, Christopher Bruce's crowd-pleasing piece choreographed to music by The Rolling Stones.
The company is also performing new works, Paysage, Soudain, la nuit by Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg and Satori, by breakthrough Cuban choreographer Raúl Reinoso.
Inspired by Vaslav Nijinsky's L'après midi d'un faune, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui completes the bill with Faun, set to Debussy's original score with additional music from Nitin Sawhney.
"It is always a pleasure to be here in Norwich," says Acosta.
"My dancers always look forward to coming here - they love the city and the theatre and they are really happy to be back. We are thankful to the Theatre Royal and [chief executive] Stephen Crocker for their support."
Talking about the show, he says: "The company is four years old. We started with no base and no repertoire and this is our way of sharing our evolution with people," he says.
Acosta's career began when he was sent by his father to train at the National Ballet School of Cuba.
"I discovered breakdancing - my father forced me into ballet," he says.
His breakthrough came in 1990 when he won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne. He was invited by Ivan Nagy to dance with the English National Ballet during their 91-92 season and then, aged just 18, he was the English National Ballet's youngest ever principal dancer.
Injury forced him to move back to Cuba, then after spells touring with the National Ballet of Cuba and the Houston Ballet, he joined the Royal Ballet under the direction of Anthony Dowell in 1998.
During his stellar career at the Royal Ballet Acosta danced in nearly all the major ballets in their repertoire - he was the company's first black Romeo - and often danced with Darcey Bussell. Since retiring from the Royal Ballet as well as founding Acosta Danza he has also created the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation.
A true passion project, it aims to give young dancers and choreographers the opportunities he benefitted from and the first step was the creation of the Acosta Danza Academy, which opened in Havana in September 2017.
And Acosta's association with Norwich Theatre Royal is set to continue.
In January he becomes artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet and they will be making their first visit to the theatre in July next year with a reimagining of Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, blending classical ballet, spoken word and physical theatre.
"This is the second chapter of my life, he says. "I'm becoming artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, which will not leave me much time to sleep, and I also have three small daughters.
But I've always been an adventurous person and have challenged myself to get bigger dreams. I'm always thinking about the next challenge. My personal evolution has been a crazy one."
Performances of Acosta Danza Evolution are at Norwich Theatre Royal on October 28 and 29 at 7.30pm. Birmingham Royal Ballet's Peter and the Wolf is at the theatre on July 3 and 4. Box office: 01603 630000/ theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk