Carlos Acosta's hand, when I shake it, is cold from his journey in to the Royal Opera House. It is just gone breakfast time and he hasn't come far – he lives in Islington. "It is too early in the morning to smile," he tells our photographer. He looks preoccupied and moves with a wary, imperious grace but is sweetness itself. As I sit with him in his dressing room, he does not waste time. He pulls on his leg warmers, starts stretching exercises. Often described as Nureyev's successor, the man has such presence that I find it hard to concentrate.
He talks about his day – he always starts with eggs, yoghurt and fruit. And I remind him how, in his memoir about growing up in Cuba, No Way Home, he describes stealing fruit. At least he does not have to do that any more. "There are no mango trees in London," he says sadly. This makes me laugh, but Acosta's sadness is genuine: "Cuba is in my heart – it defines me," he explains. He has lived in London for 12 years. Dance is his cure for homesickness, his "escape".