Review: Cuban Import Acosta Danza Makes a Powerful Debut at City Center
By Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer, May 1, 2018
Carlos Acosta, who is world-renown for his virtuosic gifts and bravura performances as a classical ballet dancer, returned to his native Cuba to form his own company, Acosta Danza. With the help of the Cuban government and various international companies with whom he has danced in the past, Acosta raised the funds to present Acosta Danza in its American debut at New York City Center.
The dancers he’s chosen stand out as individuals — different physical types and various hairstyles. They are astonishingly wonderful: strong, flexible, energetic, talented, and clearly well-trained. The choreography was all within the spectrum of modern dance. No classical ballet. No Cuban folklorico.
The program began with Alrededor no hay nada, choreographed by Goyo Montero. Dramatic lighting highlighted the dancers’ crossed arms, lined up against blackness. As the dancers moved and the light came up, we could see that the arms had been wrapped around the backs of their partners’ black suits. The men wore black suits and white shirts. The women wore very short black shorts and white tops. And everyone wore black bowler hats. (I couldn’t help thinking of Bob Fosse, and there was an aspect of Broadway to the scene, but mostly because of the costumes.) The ensemble moved in interesting patterns — together, apart, sculptural. They danced to the rhythms of the spoken word, not music. I don’t speak Spanish, and so I don’t know what was being said, and I can only wonder if my perceptions might have changed, if I had understood the words. The dancers were exceptional, executing the intricate patterns with clarity.
Carlos Acosta made a guest appearance in a pas de deux with Marta Ortega, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, whose work seems to be everywhere these days. When we first saw the couple, Ortega was in a long, sleek, red dress, designed by Hussein Chalayan. I was very impressed by her dress, which was as flexible as it was elegant. It seems that they had just come from a fancy party and she was carrying an empty wine glass. She was so drunk that she could barely stand, and kept sliding to the floor. I was puzzled by the title, Mermaid. (Was it because she “drank like a fish”? Or that she was a “fish out of water”? I guess that’s a discussion for another time….) In any case, Ortega was a wonder. Her ability to be so very relaxed and elastic enough to be tumbling over herself, and then also be surprisingly capable of performing exceptional arabesques and even amazing jumps, was something special. Acosta was an attentive partner, providing the much-needed support for his very inebriated date. Asian-tinged music was a modern composition by Woojae Park and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, with additional music by Erik Satie. Perhaps the mermaid returned to water at the end when there was the sound of flowing water, and a thin line of water streamed from the ceiling.
After intermission, Carlos Luis Blanco and Alejandro Silva performed in El Cruce sobre el Niágara, choreographed by Marianela Boán to music by Olivier Messiaen. The movement was slow, deliberate and emphasized the extraordinary strength and control of these two men whose every muscle was on display. After each danced separately, they danced together, so close and in such unison that they were almost one body.
Nosotros was a short, but lovely and romantic pas de deux, choreographed by Raúl Reinoso, and danced by Mario Sergio Elias and Liliana Menédez. She wore a bright red body suit and matching socks. He wore tight, black shorts and black socks. Pianist José Victor Gavilondo Peón and cellist Cicely Parnas sat on stage and played the extremely beautiful music that had been composed by Peón.
Last was my favorite piece of the evening: Twelve, danced by the ensemble of, yes, twelve dancers. Jorge Crecis is credited with “concept and direction” rather than choreography. It was so clever and original, and a crowd-pleaser. Lined up at the edge of the stage were plastic liter bottles of water with lighted sticks inside, looking like iridescent Gatorade. The piece began with the ensemble running around, seemingly in random patterns, calling out their assigned numbers. Then one of the dancers began to throw the bottles to the dancers running around. What began as throwing and catching turned into a tricky juggling act with some acrobatics and something like competitive breakdancing. It was full of surprises and at some point, the music (by Vincenzo Lamagna) stopped and there was only the slapping sound of the bottles being caught in rhythm. Everyone seemed to be having fun, especially the audience. What a joyful experience!
All in all, the debut of Acosta’s company was a success. I did wonder, considering his background as a classical ballet dancer, why he didn’t include any classical ballet. There is no question that Acosta has assembled an especially talented group of dancers, and I’ll look forward to seeing the company again in the future.
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Acosta Danza (NY debut), at New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, April 25-27, 2018. Carlos Acosta, director; produced by Sadler Wells & Valid Productions; co-produced with The Movement, Festspielhaus St Pölten. Company: Carlos Luis Blanco, Zeleidy Crespo, Yasser Domínguez, Maria Sergío Elias, Yanelis Godoy, Julio León, Liliana Menéndez, Marta Ortega, Raúl Reinoso, Laura Rodríguez, Javier Rojas, Alejandro Silva, Leticia Silva, Laura Treto.
Alrededor no hay nada: Choreography by Goyo Montero; music (About Poems) by Joaquín Sabina and Vinícius De Moraes; lighting and costume design by Goyo Montero.
Mermaid: Choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; music by Woojae Park and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; additional music by Erik Satie. Lighting design by Fabiana Piccioli; costumes (red dress) by Hussein Chalayan. Dancers: Carlos Acosta and Marta Ortega.
El Cruce sobre el Niágara: Choreography by Marianela Boán; music by Olivier Messiaen. Costume design by Leandro Soto; lighting design by Carlos Repilado. Dancers Carlos Luis Blanco and Alejandro Silva
Nosotros: Choreography by Raúl Reinoso; music by José Victor Gavilondo Peón. José Victor Gavilondo Peón, piano; Cicely Parnas, cello. Dancers: Mario Sergío Elias and Liliana Menéndez
Twelve: Concept and direction, Jorge Crecis; music, Vincenzo Lamagna. Costume design by Eva Escribano; lighting design by Michael Mannion and Warren Letton. Dancers: Carlos Luis Blanco, Zeleidy Crespo, Yasser Dominguez, Maria Sergío Elias, Yanelis Godoy, Julio León, Raul Reinoso, Laura Rodriguez, Javier Rojas, Alejandro Silva, Leticia Silva, and Laura Treto
Cover: Acosta Danza in ‘Twelve;’ photo: Johan Persson.