Carlos Acosta, Classical Selection, London Coliseum | Dance reviews, news & interviews
Carlos Acosta, Classical Selection, London Coliseum
A classy evening of what a great star loves doing best
The mighty adorable Carlos Acosta is at the London Coliseum this week in all his might and all his adorableness - four times, you may like to know, he appears without his shirt on. This is relevant, because it’s not the preening bare-chestedness of a showbiz egomaniac like some I could name, it demonstrates the desire of a man to shed trappings, to be himself at his most unadorned, adorning the art he loves: classical ballet.
Acosta likes to do a summer show for London, though not necessarily directly against the Bolshoi Ballet residency. However, this has great appeal, being a gallery of Acosta's favourite things (a monumental exception is Grigorovich's Spartacus, a fabulous personal triumph for him). The Cuban’s strong, pure love of ballet and what it can show is, without artifice, his fuel and guide. One loves him for the way he presents every ballerina as if she were a goddess, his huge hands gently cupping her waist to ensure her stability, and the moment she doesn’t need him, he whips them away happily to let her dazzle on her own. That’s a gentleman. That happened in the sizzling Diana and Actaeon gala pas de deux with Marianela Nuñez which ends the first half - a romp of technical fireworks by two dancers raised in the Latin part of the world where these gleefully technical and athletic numbers are learned almost with mother's milk.
Nuñez writhes languorously like a sunbathing asp in gold lamé trousers, a cruel tease to a lusty Golden Slave like Acosta
Agrippina Vaganova's Soviet gala showstopper is a guilty pleasure here, and never have I seen it so jubilantly performed. Nuñez and Acosta are two sunny individuals, and together they are a galaxy of solar energy, she so strong and glamorous in her sexy little goddess hunting outfit, he the delighted love object, both soaring in jumps that hang in air while your heart misses a beat. They cherish every step, they strain to fine-draw the arched Russian lines, they sweat to achieve the little technical nuances, Nuñez above all in some astonishingly deep, swooping arabesques and blurring spins.
That was one of the four topless-Carlos numbers. Another was the camp Sheherazade duet - the longest, silliest pas de deux ever tacked together, may we please be excused from believing by Michel Fokine? Nuñez writhes languorously like a sunbathing asp in gold lamé trousers, a cruel tease to a lusty Golden Slave like Acosta, who hurls himself through the air in great palpitating jumps. It’s the equivalent of Ferrero Rocher - you're just longing for some real chocolate with a quarter of the sugar.
More of the dark bronze Acosta chest is displayed for Nuñez to enjoy in Balanchine’s Apollo duet, in which the poised balance of this particular partnership is touchingly described. He is too courteous an individual to upstage his goddess, he shines his own light on his Terpsichore, which turns Nuñez - who is at her most fastidiously elegant in Balanchine - into the beauteous dominant divinity.
There are other ballerinas and other styles too. Acosta, for all his party spirit, has a deep love of Kenneth MacMillan’s more shadowy, thoughtful ballets, and one of the strengths of this programme is the chance to see sections of works that I’ve not seen extracted before. We have the final, scary scene from Mayerling, its horrors then gentled away by a close-knit duet from Gloria, and Acosta himself in one of his most honest and marvellous roles, in Requiem. Almost naked, this time for serious purposes, Acosta embodies better than anyone the Everyman, so staggeringly honest and unassuming is his dancing, the way he reins in his physical power for so humble an effect (Acosta pictured above in Requiem, © Tristram Kenton).
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