dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Cuban dancers turn up the heat
Carlos Acosta's new company Acosta Danza blazes a trail across the Birmingham Hippodrome stage with a debut to be remembered. Former Royal Ballet principal Acosta has long been a favourite of Birmingham audiences so it is no surprise that the first UK tour for his new company came to the city.
Appropriately named Debut, the programme features five works which show the enormous versatility of the company which is based in Cuba's capital city Havana and draws on some of the most creative international choreographers in dance today.
The Crossing over the Niagara was created by choreographer Marienela Boan in 1987 and inspired by the story of tightrope walker Charles Blondin who crossed Niagara Falls with a man on his shoulders. Dancers Carlos Luis Blanco and Alejandro Silva take up the challenge of this precision-based work, balancing firstly as individuals and then as a couple where the slightest movement changes the body's equilibrium. Nearly naked and under stark lighting, their two bodies move in perfect synchronicity and incredible strength - one moment exploding into motion and the next shifting the balance just a fraction.
Justin Peck's Belles-Lettres is much more classical in nature, with a group of nine dancers who come together and then break into lyrical pas de deux to a score by Cesar Franck.
Spanish choreographer, Goyo Montero's Imponderable is described as a 'reflection on the incomprehensible, the indescribable and what, as the title says, we cannot measure' which explains why it's a hard work to pin down. At times it feels dystopian and destructive as the group of dancers perform under harsh torchlight and turn on each other in seeming confrontations and yet at others it is full of the joy of life.
For many, the highlight of the evening will be watching Acosta perform in Mermaid, a work created for the company by Sid Larbi Cherkaoui. At just 15 minutes long, Mermaid is a beautiful piece of dance. Marta Ortega is stunningly fluid as the Mermaid who is unable to stand on her own two legs and needs the support of Acosta to rise. There's a delicious ambiguity to this as the siren wears a scarlet dress and holds an empty wine glass so is her inability to walk due to a mythical transformation of mermaid into woman or a night of too much partying? Acosta may have changed his focus from performer to artistic director but there is still no questioning his talent as a dancer. He is tender, caring and gentle as the mermaid's guardian – carrying her, lifting her and protecting her from harm.
Debut ends with a piece of fun created by Jorge Crecis in which the cast prove their athleticism by jumping, turning and dancing while throwing and catching bottles of water. Twelve must have taken a good deal of rehearsal as there were very few misses and the show is a constant juggling act.
Acosta has been fortunate to draw on talent already nurtured by other dance companies in Cuba but he is committed to also nurturing his own dancers. For a debut, this is a strong start for the company and it will be interesting to see how it develops and finds its own distinctive voice into the future.
Acosta Danza was presented in Birmingham by The Movement, a new partnership of Birmingham Hippodrome, Salford Lowry and London's Sadlers Wells which aims to bring large-scale dance productions to UK audiences.