The question marks, though, continue to fall on Acosta Danza’s choice of repertoire.
Up Close starts and ends on a high. The opening piece by the Cuban choreographer Marianela Boán is El Cruce Sobre El Niàgara, first shown here in Acosta Danza’s inaugural programme.
Inspired by the crossing of the Niagara Falls by the French tightrope walker Charles Blondin, carrying a man on his back, it features two men naked but for thongs, every powerful muscle sculpted as if in marble. One man, the stunning Carlos Luiz Blanco, crosses the stage ultra-slowly as if on a tightrope, towards another man (Alejandro Silva), who’s lying curled up on the floor.
Blanco’s control, as he pliés on demi-pointe, or lifts his leg in a slow arabesque as if trying to regain his balance, never hurrying, his concentration total, is breath-taking.
When he reaches Silva, Messiaen’s score goes from dreamy to assertive, and the two dance in unison in an explosion of energy that ends when Blanco takes Silva onto his shoulders.
As a portrayal of an extraordinary feat of skill and endurance, El Cruce Sobre El Niàgara works on many levels; but it works primarily as performed by dancers of this superlative calibre.
The last piece in the evening is danced by Carlos Acosta himself, now in his mid-forties and still a charismatic stage presence. It’s Russell Maliphant’s Two, created in 1998 for Dana Fouras.
At seven minutes it’s a little gem, the dancer trapped within Michael Hulls’ box of light, his gestures at first small – a fluttering hand, a forearm – gradually developing into fuller movements as his whole body becomes engaged to the crescendo of Andy Cowton’s score.
It’s a mesmerising piece, and Carlos Acosta does it full justice.
Also on positive side of Up Close is Rafael Bonachela’s Soledad. An intense pas de deux set to plaintive music by the Mexican singer Chavela Vargas and Gidon Kremer’s 'Hommage a Piazzolla,' its tenor could be encapsulated in ‘can’t live with you, can’t live without you.’
Laura Rodríguez and Mario Elías are utterly convincing as the couple in a fraught love-hate relationship; entrusted to them, this slightly overlong piece is engrossing.
No so Juliano Nunes’ Mundo Interpretado (Interpreted World), a seemingly endless and directionless piece for six dancers set to music by José V Gavilondo. It starts well, with a vivacious ensemble sequence based on standard contemporary dance language, but then tails off into bitty derivative sequences. We have a trio where people are manipulated into tortuous combinations (à la Wayne McGregor), a male solo, and a baffling faux classic pas de deux where the woman suddenly appears in pointe shoes.
Equally unfulfilling, but at seven minutes mercifully a lot shorter, is María Rovira’s Impronta, which is based on traditional Cuban dance. It doesn’t really amount to much or go anywhere, but it affords us a precious opportunity to see the shaved head, sculptural goddess that is Zeleidy Crespo, an extraordinarily compelling dancer who can turn even the thinnest material into a mesmerising performance.
|Acosta Danza Up Close Review
|Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Covent Garden (underground)
13 Feb 20 – 24 Feb 20, 19:45 Mat Sun 16, 23 at 14:45; no performance Mon 17 Dur.: 2 hours inc one interval
|Click here to book