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Carlos Acosta with Guest Artists from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba

by Ana Abad-Carles

October 23, 2007 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London

After the very successful programme that Carlos Acosta managed to produce last June for Sadler’s Wells, it was no surprise that the venue would commission him for another show soon afterwards. On this occasion, instead of  other Royal Ballet dancers as his companions on the stage, Acosta decided to bring some of the most talented young Cuban dancers from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.

In order to give it all a totally Cuban feeling, Acosta also decided to bring the works of Cuba’s most celebrated choreographer, Alberto Méndez. Unfortunately for Méndez and the dancers showcased, the way the choreographer’s works were linked and even the choice of some of the pieces, far from celebrating Cuban ballet tradition, seemed to somehow downplay it.

If truth be told, Méndez’ works are not Balanchine’s. There are certain choreographers’ works that do not translate well on stages far from their original countries. I am thinking of Lifar, for example, who is still revered in Paris and somehow ignored in the UK. However, and maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, Méndez’s “Tarde en la Siesta” was a beautiful and lyrical work when the Ballet del Teatro Lirico Nacional (the Spanish Classical Ballet national company at the time) performed it in the eighties.

For narrative reasons, I suppose, Acosta decided not to bring this work, but “Muñecos”, “El Bosque y el Río” and “Paso a Tres” and he completed the programme with the “Le Corsaire” pas de deux.

The show opened with Yolanda Correa and Javier Torres having an argument over Correa’s infatuation with her books. The choreography for this section—as for all the linking narrative sections—was by Acosta himself, who really likes his MacMillan when it comes to lifts and pair work. It was a shame, though, that Correa did not have a better opportunity to show off her dancing and interpretative skills, as she is a wonderful dancer whom I would love to see in weightier roles.

Her book readings provide the background for Méndez’ works. “Muñecos” was a pas de deux danced by Carlos Acosta himself and Annette Delgado that, sadly, lacked the depth and length needed to make it really work. Followed by the exotic “El Bosque y el Río”, danced by José Losada and Verónica Corveas, the first part of the programme seemed to fall flat and while the dancers were really trying, one could not stop feeling that the choreographic choices were letting them down.

The second part of the programme lifted the audience’s spirits through Méndez’s “Paso a Tres”, a not-very-subtle parody of the world of classical ballet and its prima ballerinas. As this was followed by the Corsair pas de deux, the audience finally managed to applaud the skills and charm of the dancers. Viengsay Valdés and Acosta were superb in their technical accomplishments and the evening managed to end on a high note.

It is always good to see Cuban dancers on London stages, as they somehow manage to bring some of their native country’s warmth to their dancing. If Acosta had intended to create a masterpiece of choreography I would have hesitations about the show: however, as his main goal was to have people enjoy the dance, I thought it did capture that happy feeling at the end.

It was somehow a bit disappointing not to showcase the dancers and choreography in a better light.

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