Lara Gregorians says farewell to one of ballet’s brightest stars
If you want to learn just one name from the world of dance, Carlos Acosta is a pretty good choice. Heralded as arguably one of the greatest male dancers of his generation, Acosta has gained superstar-status around the world, and has wowed London audiences as a member of the Royal Ballet for almost 20 years. This Cuban star, however, is hanging up his (classical) dancing shoes once and for all at the end of the season – but not without one last hurrah! For Carlos Acosta: A Classical Selection, Acosta is joined by 8 of his friends from the Royal Ballet to present a mixed bill of some of his favourite works.
The cast saunter onto the stage, lined with ballet barres and sofas, casually chatting in their warm-up onesies, stretching and getting ready to just run through some numbers. “Hey, we’re just old friends, doing what we do, yeah” they practically cry out to us. It’s a lovely motif that returns throughout the first act, framing each piece, and bringing us back to reality after being whisked away to the world of the sylphs or swans or Spanish lovers. For a production based around an amalgamation of wholly different ballets, the show’s narrative was beautifully kept.
The first act presented a host of hugely varied classic gems, dating from the 1830s to 1990s. Balanchine’s angular and abstract Agon pas de deux opened the show, followed by Bournonville’s ethereal and playful La Sylphide; made over a century apart, these two couldn’t be more different.
It was the latter two pieces of the first act, however, that really excelled. The Dying Swan is possibly one of the most iconic solos known to ballet, but Zenaida Yanowsky’s rendition was absolutely stunning. Every single muscle in her arms was engaged, from the tops of her shoulders to the tips of fingers, creating beautifully powerful ripples throughout her limbs. It amazes me every time that so much power and emotion can come from such simple moves, but there is something so unfathomably captivating about those gentle bourrées and undulating arms.
Acosta was then joined by Marianela Núñez to perform the Diana and Actaeon pas de deux – an absolute crowd pleaser. I mean, really, is there anyone as captivating as Núñez? I’d be surprised. Her unbelievable lightness coupled with her gusto and cheeky glances make her an absolute pleasure to watch – the pair a picture perfect team. Acosta soared onto the stage showing us all that he’s still got it, both with his bold leaps and spins, and that teeny tiny outfit. The crowd, of course, went wild. After seamlessly catching Núñez’s waist mid pirouettes, to only spin her even more and faster, the pair took their bows and huffed and puffed back to the barre to end Act 1.
The second act only offered more to feast our eyes on. Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Nehemiah Kish performed the beautiful End of Time pas de deux; she glided and folded, he carried her weightless body, grounding and moving her across the stage. There was a beautiful co-dependence between the pair, with her extensions emerging out of his movements.
Both van Cauwenbergh pieces were also performed expertly: Yuhui Choe was powerful and domineering in Je ne regrette rien, but again, it was Acosta who garnered mass audience praise with his rendition of Les Bourgeois. A light, comical piece about a drunkard stumbling in the streets, Acosta was funny and charming, reminding us all that it was him we were really there to see.
Carlos Acosta is at a pivotal point in his career. Leaving the world of classical ballet behind is a big step, but he’s not exactly a one trick pony. Already a successful choreographer, author, and actor, there are many other new plans up his sleeve. Rather than a sombre farewell, A Classical Selection is a wonderfully put together celebration of his ballet career so far. At the age of 42, he might not jump as high or spin as fast as he did 20 years ago, but he’s still an absolute pleasure to watch. One thing’s for sure: he’ll be sorely missed on our London stages.
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Carlos Acosta: A Classical Selection is on at London Coliseum until 13th December
Featured image credit: Johan Persson