Carlos Acosta: Premieres Plus
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK; August 18, 2011
An evening with Carlos Acosta and Zenaida Yanowsky; it sounds so promising. But Premieres Plus, in which the muscular Cuban dancer stages and performs his own selection of choreography was lucklustre and disappointing.
It was a programme full of introversion and of peering into the soul. You would have thought that might have guaranteed emotion even of it was only angst. But for huge parts of the evening all there was to see was a black hole.
Acosta had sewed the works together as much as possible with, it has to be said, some success. But with everything looking so alike, transitions were easily missed. It wasn’t only the movement that looked dreadfully similar, so were the costumes and lighting. Yanowsky spent most of the evening dressed in an unflattering white number, with Acosta always in black. At least he got to remove his shirt. That was about as much variation as there was. As for the lighting, part one was danced in shaft after shaft of light from above, the action always taking place in or around a small lit square on an otherwise dark stage. The second half at least had something slightly different when Yanowsky’s solo from Kim Brandstrups “A Footnote to Ashton”, was danced in a sea of candles. After that, though, it was back to the gloom. Single lights can work wonders as it does highlight the limbs, but all the time?
The best moments all involved Yanowsky. In the “Footnotes” solo, her hands spoke volumes as she gave a sense of anguish and pain. “Sirin”, a new solo created for her by her brother Yuri was inspired by the mythological Russian being of the same name with the body of a bird and the head of a woman. Her beautifully articulate arms certainly looked bird like, but more like a bird of prey, one moment soft and flowing, the next harsh and urgent. The best choreography, though, came in Edwaard Liang’s “Sight Unseen”, a flowing duet packed with strange angles and clever lifts, and in which Yanowsky constantly fell into Acosta’s rescuing arms.
Of the rest, particularly disappointing was Russell Maliphant’s “Two”. How one remembers the excitement and fireworks when performed by Sylvie Guillem. Reworked here for Acosta, there was lots of posing and muscle flexing, but the spark had all but been extinguished. And while a slow motion film of two naked bodies moving and caressing, supposedly underwater, was cleverly put together by director Simon Elliott, one wondered what on earth it was doing here, except to act as a filler and give the stage crew a chance to get rid of those candles.
Some of the audience, who had largely been applauding no more than politely, did stand and cheer at the end. But I was left asking why, why, why? In the programme, Acosta talked about how “Premieres Plus” is the latest step on a path of exploration as a dancer and an artist. I rather fear he has lost his way.