Wednesday 31 July 2013

Carlos Acosta, London Coliseum

Wow – what a treat I had last night. Thanks to my grandparents, I enjoyed a wonderful night at the London Coliseum, seeing the amazing Carlos Acosta. Born in Havana in 1973, he joined the Royal Ballet in 1998 and shot to fame in this country. Looking at his dance history, I think he has danced every male lead role you could ever think of (I remember seeing him as Romeo on BBC2 on Christmas Day a few years ago).

For the next five nights however, Acosta will be at the London Coliseum, dancing his Classical Selection; this consists of sixteen dances that he feels have shaped and inspired his career. When the lights went down, the crowd were silent, and the piano appeared under a single spotlight at the back of the stage, I was suddenly aware of the enormity of the auditorium. What a perfect setting for such a special show. I’ve chosen to write about just a few of my favourite dances from the night.

Accompanying Acosta were eight other dancers, and he danced most of his sections with the same girl, Marianela Nuñez. The pair looked as if they had been dancing together for years; their movements were so in time, and so emotionally connected. The opening dance, Winter Dreams, is a distillation of Chekov’s Three Sisters, and recalls the farewell between Masha and her love, Colonel Vershinin, when his regiment is ordered to move on to a different town. The dance was beautiful, and by the end, when Masha is left on stage clutching Vershinin’s overcoat, you can see Nuñez’s stomach heaving in heartbreak. However, next time we see her, in Scheherezade, the transformation is incredible; she is a strong and feisty Zobéide, seducing her lover or, as he is sometimes named, The Golden Slave (Acosta). With the music and style of dance being so different too, she is altogether a changed character.

Over my years of going to the ballet I have seen many dancers take on the role of a swan, but never before have I seen someone so believable as Melissa Hamilton. She danced Mikhail Fokine’s interpretation of The Dying Swan, and I almost forgot she was human. With beautiful music by Camille Saint-Saëns, I’m sure my jaw wasn’t the only one in my lap as we watched her. Later, Hamilton danced MacMillan’s Gloria with Nehemiah Kish. Inspired by the after-effects of war, here she embodies a woman in mourning and is again breath-taking.

Probably the pas de deux I enjoyed most was Massenet’s Manon, because of how happy and joyful it was! Manon wakes in her glorious, fifteen-foot high four-poster bed to find her lover, des Grieux, already awake and writing at his desk. Their dance is complete with effortless lifts, romantic embraces, and a fair amount of smooching – it’s every girl’s fantasy, isn’t it?! Unfortunately, this is just a lovely snippet of the overall opera, and inevitably, Manon is destined to come to a rather sticky end (I’ll let you read her story by yourself, so as not to spoil the mood!). Leanne Benjamin is a wonderful dancer though, and just as energetic and spritely as the other female dancers, despite being 49 years old! She is retiring this month from the Royal Ballet with an OBE.

The last dance of the night was quite literally a showstopper. Up until this point, Acosta had acted mainly as support to the beautiful women he was dancing with, but now it was his turn to shine! The dance, named Memoria, was created in July 2009 for performances at the Coliseum, to accompany music written by Mexican electronica artist Murcof. With his athletic and muscular frame, Acosta moved through jumps, flips, headstands, floor work, and more traditional ballet positions fluently, completely embodying his native South American beat. He was absolutely mesmerising, and I feel so lucky to have witnessed one of the greats being so… great :) 

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