Carlos Acosta interviewed by the British public

What do you see as the biggest issue in connecting dance to the general population who does not find dance interesting?

One way would be to bring in professionals to their communities, and somebody explaining what they are about to see. And what to look for in a performance. I'm sure with this explanation, and a sample of a particular dance, they will get why dance is so great. We need to be careful in not marginalising a sector of the population by making the ticket price too expensive, so that only a few can afford it.

When you're young, you play with toy cars; then you tire of them, and you like Justin Bieber. Then you tire of him, and learn about Mozart… You start to get tired of McDonalds and you want to eat something proper. That also goes with this philosophy in dance. Sometimes you don't want to go the the Royal Opera House, especially if you don't have parents that give you this education from early. My daughter has been there since early, it's always been part of her life – but most people aren't lucky enough to have that. It takes longer for them to discover it. But when they're 25 or something, they can get hooked – a whole new world appears before their eyes. It's like anything in life, it requires a little bit of getting used to, and educating yourself. Read the programme! You will get a lot of joy from learning who your favourite dancers are, and why you love them. All that is something you gradually cultivate.

Are you concerned about the possible re-Americanisation of Cuba?

I'm not concerned about that. I think that Cuban politicians will make sure that we don't go back in time, when almost half of the island belongs to US companies and individuals. But at the same time, these two countries should not be enemies, especially being neighbours. There's so many things that could do together for the benefit of both parties. From environmental schemes, to artistic collaboration.

Where would you most like to live in the world? What will you do after ballet? Where do you recommend to visit in Cuba?

England and Cuba! That's the right balance for me. In Havana, La Fabrica de Arte is a must. Also I strongly recommend the Institute Superior of Art, where I'm building my art centre. Please show it to all your friends!

When did you feel you'd really made it in ballet?

I never felt I made it in ballet. And that has always been the key to my success. You're always learning. Then when you feel you have nothing to learn, then you know it's the end.

Ballet at 42 – it injures you. It's an artwork that is anti-anatomic – it's not made for the human anatomy. When you're in your twenties, you're straight out of the factory, completely new, and everything is pain-free. But at 42, it doesn't come as easy.

You have had an inspirational career, what advice would you give to aspiring young male dancers to encourage them to follow their dreams in a society that doesn't openly promote ballet dance for boys.

I think what may help to inspire young boys to be drawn into ballet is if there is a ballet program in their communities. It could be in the local gym, in school, so they could have access to this wonderful world from a young age. Ballet is an expression that should bring people together. I think it all starts with local MPs to address the necessity of ballet and dance in general in the local community – it has to do with politicians, and with schools' programmes. Some schools have a theatre programme, but there are less schools that incorporate dance. It has to be supported by the government as a top priority, but what happens normally is that government increasingly are cutting the funds involving the arts. Which is a big mistake.

I think that your tastes get sealed off when you're a teenager. So it's important to get access to ballet as early as possible – to be exposed to Swan Lake, to hear Tchaikovsky and have you mind switched on by it.

Thank you for the pleasure of watching you dance with such brilliance over the years. You are sensational and have contributed so much to the canon of performing ballet. My question is this: are there any poets, novelists or other artists who have sustained your inspiration to dance? Please share, if so.

Until I was 25 years old, my world all around me was just ballet. I had blinkers on. It was when I turned 25 that I read a book for the first time in my life, and that was The Great Gatsby. I knew that I wanted to write my story, so that's why reading came very handy. From that point on, obviously, every play I've seen and every book I've read, it impacted my art and my creativity. I don't have a particular inspiration – I try to get inspiration from everything around me.

Do you spend much time in Yorkshire?

I go to Yorkshire quite a lot, to visit my wife's relatives. I love the countryside, all the pheasants running around, for a Cuban guy like me that's something truly amazing.

Does the Cuban education system offer all children the opportunity to study dance?

Yes, that's one of the most important achievements of the Cuban revolution. Not only they offer all children the opportunity to dance, dance, sport, or whatever they decide also is absolutely free.

I'd like to ask Carlos two questions. The first is how did he plan his book? Did he set out a chapter and character plan before starting or did the writing flow quite naturally without planning? The second question: If a person didn't get the opportunity to train in dance as a younger person, do you think that person could gain suppleness with regular practice, and are there styles of dance that would be more accessible to such a person (besides ballroom)?

I had an idea of my book: I wanted to project to the readers with two realities. The one the narrator tells the reader, and then the true reality. And at the end, have the reader choosing a reality they want to believe. I also knew that I wanted to do something against the canvas of Cuban history, and fill the book with picturesque characters inspired by family members and people I know. I wanted to have that kind of structure of two realities because I wanted to do something with schizophrenia. My aunt died as a result of that illness, and my sister in part as well. So I also wanted with this book to celebrate their memories.

If you are serious about becoming a professional ballet dancer, like any other artform you will benefit from early training. But having said that, Nureyev started in his teens to go to a ballet school, and he went on to become a legend. Nothing is set in stone. Also, ballet, it could be a great way to exercise your body and to keep it healthy. There is this great trend of people in their 50s and 60s that rather train in ballet than going to the gym. I think the world is better with ballet in general than without, so it's never too late to submerge yourself in this wonderful world.

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