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Wednesday, 14 February 2018
What will 2018 be like for Carlos Acosta? Interview with Cuba's most famous dancer
Carlos Acosta photo: Johan Persson
When Carlos Acosta talks about his company something lights up in him. A light of satisfaction crosses his face to reflect that feeling that only those who see a dream come true experience. The uncertainties of its beginnings have been left behind. Acosta Danza, in its very short life (its premiere was in April 2016), has quickly consolidated within the national dance scene as a company that leaves aesthetic traces that set it apart from the rest. Its line is defined by the integration of contemporary and neoclassical, not excluding other expressions, times and styles of dance. On the subjects of the projects and premieres of the company, Acosta's return to the stage, the reception by the public and the making of a film based on his life we talked with this dancer, who even when he is recognized both inside and outside of Cuba, has not lost his humility and is still as Cuban as he is unique.
THE COMPANY At the end of last year, the troop of 19 dancers could prove the worth of their repertoire, Cuban and international, on the world stage. For seven weeks, Acosta Danza toured the UK, Istanbul, Germany and Austria.
Carlos Acosta: "We had a surprising reception from the public. All the standing ovations, the dancers grew greatly and that helped us a lot to work together as a company. When an institution is born it is very difficult to see the results but when the dancers notice that their results as a company have been so well received, that gives them all a vote of confidence in the project .
"When I came here and created this company, I was a little uncertain, also because for a long time there have existed the famous companies of Cuba such as the National Ballet and Contemporary Dance. So my challenge was for the Cuban public to see this company as a complement and not as a company with competitive anxieties. Art does not compete. There are no better or worse arts.
"What I have tried, is to ensure that the company has a unique, authentic voice and this is the result of mixing the two demands: try to find a repertoire with a common language in which different dance forms and rhythms are intertwined. In addition we have proposed that this works in both ways, bringing the world to Cuba and taking Cuba to the world.
"I have found support from all levels in Cuba to put this project as a priority and that gives me great strength. My intention in creating Acosta Danza was to give the artists new challenges in their country, to make them feel fulfilled from the point of view of the repertoire, that they did not have to go elsewhere to work with geniuses of dance but that those choreographers come to Cuba to work with them.
"That our dancers feel stimulated from every point of view, that they can realize their dream in their country, that gives me a lot of hope and I believe that we can all achieve it, above all, by our legacy and our strong tradition that has always been an important source of creation of dancers.
THE PUBLIC "The Cuban public appreciates all the novelty, it is an educated public but, unfortunately, I think that the repertoire has been stagnant for a long time. The aesthetic taste is educated, if one does not give much variety then it conditions the taste and by doing that a repetition can stagnate and the mind is not opened to another kind of aesthetics, that is why diversity is important and that the Cuban public are not left behind in questions of what is happening in the world today.
"Diversity is the key. Ours is a very warm audience that shows that they know and that can also be a double-edged sword. There is, in art, the one who listens and applauds at the end, but there is the phenomenon of a "balance" and the one who applauds the technical virtuosity, which is fine but at the same time there is a narrative that the artist does not concentrate on because he concentrates on technical matters. There are dancers who are not so technical and who are not so applauded because they did not do the "balance" but maybe they are the most sublime in character characterization. I'm talking about classic dance, from my experience that is not absolute.
"I also believe that classical ballets should be left to rest and alternate, that's why the Acosta Danza brings a fresh approach where in these five seasons we have made several premieres and we have repeated very little".
MYTH RETURNS TO THE STAGE The last time Carlos danced in Cuba was in March of last year, with a very short season of Only Two, by Russell Maliphant. Few could enjoy that presentation because it was only one day in the theatre. However, the National Dance Award winner was set to return to the stage in February, with the new season of Acosta Danza. Titled ‘Mitos', the presentation will be at the National Theatre of Cuba. The program includes four premieres by important international choreographers.
Carlos Acosta: "In this February season we are going to have four premieres and I dance in two of them. We started with ‘Imponderable', a collaboration with Spanish choreographer Goyo Montero inspired by the lyrical work of Silvio Rodríguez, with music by Owen Belton and Rodríguez himself, who recorded poems in his voice especially for this show. This piece was premiered after Hurricane Irma hit Cuba and it was a very difficult season because the lighting could not be done as planned, but now you can see the work as it was conceived, with its appropriate lighting.
Catalan María Rovira choreographs ‘Impronta' - which recreates the dance of the orisha Yemayá - and the premiere ‘El salto de Nijinsky', a 25-minute piece inspired by the life of one of the great legends of the history of dance. Later on we will perform the duo ‘Mermaid', which can be seen in Cuba for the first time. It is a work that was created for me and Marta Ortega by the choreographer SidiLarbi Cherkaoui.
We end with ‘Rooster', where I also make an appearance. It is a piece from the 80s, with music by The Rolling Stones. The ballet is a parody on the flirtatious man and where a comparison is made with a rooster, it is a bit relaxed. The work is by the Englishman Christopher Bruce, one of the great choreographers of the second half of the 20th century and who was artistic director of the Rambert Ballet for almost 15 years. Bruce comes to Cuba for the first time for the rehearsal and premiere of the work. It gives me great pleasure to share this great talent with the Cuban public ".
YULI, the film The film ‘Yuli' is inspired by Acosta's autobiographical novel ‘No way home', and has been filmed for a few months in Cuba, Spain and London. The British and Spanish co-production is directed by the Spanish director Icíar Bollaín and covers the entire life of Acosta up to 2003, when he premiered ‘Tocororo' and took it to England with his family.
"The script is not about my autobiography, but about the man. It is me returning to the Royal Ballet, and from there to Cuba and creating my own company. Together with my dancers, I am setting the story of my life to dance and in that dance I play my father. The choreography is going to tell how my life was in Pinar del Rio, all the loneliness I felt there, they are things that affect my soul every time I have to relive those moments, I prefer not to forget but not to dig too deeply in some passages of my life.
" The film is very original. It is not a dance film because it is not heavy with dance, the filmmakers are trying to recreate the spoken history and with actors who flashback to the past but cut and follow that narrative with the dance. It is a very novel way of telling a story. The film is called ‘Yuli', because it's my childhood nickname. In my neighborhood in Los Pinos, everyone calls me ‘El Yuli'. The filmmakers are trying to finish it in May and send it to the San Sebastian and Toronto festivals. I hope you can see it at the Havana Film Festival in December.
2018, A YEAR OF WORK The ‘Mitos' season will open an extensive program of works that Acosta Danza is preparing for 2018, with a national tour, several world premieres and important guests of the international stage.
"Finishing the presentations at the National, we start our first national tour. As of February 12, we will take the best of our repertoire to Santiago, Holguín, Bayamo and Camagüey. We would like national tours to be on a regular basis, because Havana is not Cuba. Then, in April, we will be in New York and in May we will make another creation with Raúl Reinoso. In addition we continue with the teaching unit program in Havana and we are going to do the auditions in May so that 10 new dancers enter the school. We currently have 10 Cuban students and in the next course 10 foreigners will enter the school, because it is part of our interest to train dancers from other countries. There are four Chileans, three Colombians, two Americans and one English girl. " I would like to do another choreography by Marianela Boán and we are looking at making a call for national choreographic talent and the prize would be to present it in one of our seasons and from there, invest in those talents ".