London Met honours celebrated dancer Carlos Acosta 12/06
Carlos Acosta and his Aché, Pedro Perez Sarduy, 6/18/04
"Carlos Acosta was born in Cuba in 1973. He started dancing at the insistence of his father as a means of occupying his spare time. He began dancing at the National Ballet School of Cuba, Havana, when he was ten. In June 1991 he received his diploma with maximum qualifications and a gold medal.
He has won numerous awards ranging from the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne (January 1990), to the Grand Prix and Gold Medal at the Fourth Annual Competition of Ballet in Paris (November 1990), and the Grand Prix in the third Juvenile Competition of Dance (June 1991). His most recent accolade was the International Critics’ Prize from the Chilean dance critics.
From 1989 to 1991 he performed throughout the world, guesting with many other companies including the Ballet Company of the New Theatre in Turin, Italy, Mexico and Venezuela. In the 1991/92 season he was invited to dance with the English National Ballet in London. He made his debut in the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor and also appeared as the Prince in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker and Cinderella, partnering Eva Evdokimova and Ludmilla Semenyaka.
From 1992 to 1993 he danced as a member of the National Ballet of Cuba. In October 1993 and September 1994 he toured with the company to Madrid, Spain where he danced the principal roles in Giselle, Don Quixote and Swan Lake. In November 1993 he was invited to join the Houston Ballet as a principal dancer where he made his American stage debut as the Prince in Stevenson’s The Nutcracker.
Following this his repertory with the Houston Ballet included Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Solor in the third act of La Bayadère, Basilio in Don Quixote, Stevenson’s Britten pas de deux, the male lead in Harald Lander’s Etudes, and Jiri Kylian’s Symphony in D. Acosta made his first appearance with the Royal Ballet in William Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated in October 1998 and subsequently appeared as Jean de Brienne in Rudolf Nureyev’s production of Raymonda Act III, Colas in Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, Siegfried in Swan Lake, Actaeon in the Diana and Actaeon pas de deux, the Brother in Kenneth MacMillan’s My Brother, My Sisters, Albrecht in Giselle, and the Principal Boy in Rhapsody. At the opening celebration of the Royal Opera House, Acosta performed the man’s solo in Petipa’s Le Corsaire. In the 99/2000 season he danced in Nacho Duato’s Remanso, the Prince in The Nutcracker, solo boy in MacMillan’s Gloria, Franz in Ninette de Valois’ production of Coppélia, Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’un faune, Des Grieux in MacMillan’s Manon, the Messenger of Death in Song of the Earth and the Boy with Matted Hair in Anthony Tudor’s Shadowplay. During the 2001/2 season he made his debut as Basilio in Nureyev’s Don Quixote, and in the 2002/2003 season he made his debut as the title role in George Balanchine’s Apollo.
He has created roles in Ashley Page’s Hidden Variables and William Tuckett’s 3:4. Television performances include two live BBC broadcasts from the Royal Opera House; the opening celebration in December 1999 when Acosta performed the man’s solo in Le Corsaire, and in February 2000 the role of Franz in Ninette de Valois’ Coppélia. Most recently Carlos Acosta was featured on Imagine, BBC 2." - brochure for Tocoro
"Tocororo tells the story of a humble boy who leaves his family and
the traditions of the Cuban countryside for an urban future, loosely based
on Acosta's own life story.
"Carlos Acosta was born in Cuba in 1973. He began his dance studies at age ten at the National Ballet School of Cuba, in Havana, receiving his diploma in June, 1991, with maximum qualifications and a gold medal.
Mr. Acosta has won numerous national and international awards, including
the gold medal at the Prix de Lausanne (Jan. 1990), the Spanish Vegnale
Dance Prix in Italy (Aug. 1990), the grand prix and gold medal at the Fourth
Annual Competition of Ballet in Paris (Nov. 1990) and the grand prix in the
Third Juvenile Competition of Dance (June, 1991)."
|by Pedro Pérez-Sarduy,
London, in brochure for the shows Sadler's Wells,
From the mid-16th century, large numbers of slaves were brought from Africa to work on the plantations for coffee and other produce, and later in what was to be the major commodity of Spain’s Caribbean colony: sugar cane. Uprooted from the coasts of the Gulf of Guinea and the jungles of the Congo, the Africans were the profitable merchandise of the slave trade. Theirs is the legacy of sub-Saharan West Africa, and especially the Yoruba, from what is today Nigeria, who most influenced the process of cultural and religious transculturation, rapidly extending their customs and establishing a long lineage of influence in other African cultures that already existed in Cuba. Elements of their culture, stronger than the rest, shaped the birth and transculturated expressions of that which is Cuban heritage today.
It was at the height of Cuba’s sugar expansion (late 18th and early 19th Century) that Yoruba mythology transplanted to Cuba was significantly reshaped as it came into contact with other religious forms of African origin and Catholicism. This spontaneously gave rise to what has been called the ‘syncretism’ between the religious ritual and belief system known as Regla de Ocha, or Santería, based on the worship of the Yoruba pantheon of the orishas and their corresponding Catholic saints. Santería is, de facto, a Cuban religion grounded on personal dialogue with the deities. With practitioners of all colours, Santería has travelled beyond Cuba’s shores and across the seas as a form of popular hybrid spirit worship and is today practised by not only those of African descent of all ages but also by other nationals and foreigners, on and off the island.
As Cuba ceased to be only a political curiosity to become a tourist mecca, brochures and guidebooks have familiarized visitors with the saying that in Cuba ‘if you don’t have some congo you have some carabalí’ – in reference to two of the African ethnic groupings brought during the 355 years that the slave trade officially lasted. Thus, this timeless and apparently conciliatory phrase is one which Cubans have come to adopt as their best claim to cultural identity.
This ethnic and cultural mestizaje – or mix, born of tears, sweat and blood – may be perverse for some but is for others their only reason for existing. And for the great majority of those whose birthplace is the island, this is the hybridity of being Cuban: a cocktail not only of African and Spanish but also of other ingredients, including Chinese. None of the arts in Cuba have escaped this, but rather have succumbed to the realm of spiritual and artistic creation. The visual arts, literature, theatre, film, music or dance have all embraced that mix, the latter two most markedly so.
In the Afro-Cuban arts, mestizaje has significant resistance, both in terms of memory and values scorned by officialdom, and also to attain a status in cultural history that transcends the exotic. It is through this prism that Tocororo, the opera prima of Carlos Acosta, must be appreciated. Cuban choreographers of contemporary dance and ballet have long manifested the influence of popular culture. In Tocororo (named after the multicoloured national bird of Cuba), Acosta’s performance is one that has never been seen before by a Cuban dancer trained in the tradition of classical European ballet. He masterfully debunks the falsehood of another racist myth, that there can be no middle ground in dance: whites in ballet and blacks in contemporary modern dance or folklore.
Many may not have reflected on that painful hybridity in Cuba whose origins lie in a different way of viewing the world. A pas de deux becomes a rumba and then a guaguancó, another expression of the Afro-Cuban liturgy invoked by a majority of island inhabitants to celebrate their ancestors. The final apotheosis of the Cuban danzón and son is an ancestral fusion that today generates new forms of dance pleasure, a mix to be found both here and elsewhere.
Staging Cuban popular religiosity through contemporary modern dance or ballet carries with it a responsibility, because it is popular sentiment and rejection can be catastrophic. Yet Acosta dared take up the challenge, and his daring proved justified. Tocororo is a respectful and joyful tribute to those who came before him, and is at the same time his own offering. Acosta is no more but the child of fate, the boy of humble origins whose dream magically came true. His destiny was to be born 15 years after the 1959 Revolution led by Fidel Castro, that dramatically changed Cuba. By the time he was born, literacy programmes had transformed town and countryside, schools for art instructors and, throughout the island, art schools, flourished. At this time young and old came together in a cultural endeavour that would give rise to freer, more spontaneous thinking. New young dancers coming through the ballet schools challenged false theories that classical European ballet was not for blacks. Acosta, dancing a classical Don Quixote in the matinee and a mambo by night in his Tocororo, is born of a people for whom the pleasure of dance is a way of life, not simply an elite aesthetic pleasure.
Acosta is more than the boy from the humble family deeply affected by the social changes sweeping the island. This young black Cuban – something not to be overlooked out of sympathy or ignorance – was born in a society different from that known by his parents. A society which enabled his talent to triumph over the many years of racial prejudice one faced, to become what he is today: the strong aesthetic image of a Cuban dancer, who is black and has aché, the power and strength the orishas bestow on their chosen. Aché pa’tí, Carlos.
Sadler's Wells, London
Music by: Miguel Núñez; Producer: Carlos and Carlos
Acosta; Choreographer: Carlos Acosta;
DANCER WILL present tocororo IN LONDON 6/29/04 Cuba Now: "Acosta,
considered the Best Dancer in 2003 by Great Britain’s National Dance Critics
Circle, first presented Tocororo in Havana in January, then in London in
February, and later in Mexico and the United States, where the press described
him as “the bridge which fills the vacuum between Nureyev and Baryshnikov.”
Profile: Carlos Acosta
Fidel attends Carlos Acosta‘s choreographic debut, 2/17/03
UN DON QUIJOTE DE ALTURA, Jiribilla, 10/03
"No hay nada que se compare con este momento”, repetía al final del espectáculo el primer bailarín del Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC) Carlos Acosta. “Ha sido una función muy excitante", declaró su compatriota y compañera ocasional de baile, la también primera bailarina Viengsay Valdés.
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