Acosta Danza: Evolution – Sadler’s Wells, London

Choreographers: Paul Reinoso Pontus Lidberg, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Christopher Bruce

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

If you think of Cuban dance it tends to be salsa, rhumba maybe mambo, exotic Latin rhythms that fit the ballroom style, but Carlos Acosta has changed all that using his dance company Acosta Danza to showcase an exciting programme of contemporary pieces fused with ballet, Latin and other styles. Arriving at Sadler’s Wells to present their latest anthology of work entitled Acosta Danza: Evolutionthis evening of eclectic styles and feats of daring put this relatively new company at the forefront of modern dance.

The evening begins with the UK premiere of the highly abstract piece Satori that takes its inspiration from Buddhist enlightenment to explore the inner and exterior struggles as a body moves towards the light, beauty and truth. Choreographed by Paul Reinoso this Avant-Garde composition includes a giant purple tarpaulin that acts first as a skirt for all the dancers who express sharp geometric movements with their arms before a figure emerges – Zeleidy Crespo – and the sheet becomes a sheer backdrop through which silhouettes are projected and transforms into a canopy. The inventive movements are opaque, as well as visually and physically demanding but are full of energy, drama and imagination that explore the powerful growth of individuals and leaders as well as the synchronicity of community.

The second UK premiere is a much lighter dance that puts the exuberance of youth centre stage, as a group of friends in a sunny, summery landscape consider relationships, love and collaboration. Choreographed by Pontus Lidberg, Paysage, Soudain, la nuit mixes group sequences with couple solos and draws on the styles of film musical – particularly that of the 1950s – to showcase the fluidity of the dancers as they twist and turn in unison across a changing light-scape. It is a time of abundant harvest, fruitfulness and joy, building to what feels like an all-night rave, liberated and together.

Faun is by far the shortest work included in the programme but one of the most spectacular. Two figures appear in the woods and move towards one another tentatively until the syncopated rhythm of their movements consumes them. There is a clear Adam and Eve allusion with “Adam” arriving first, exploring his stretched limbs and physical strength before leaving the stage to “Eve” who appears to enact a tribal ritual, subsuming herself into the forest backdrop. The joy of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s piece lies in bringing the dancers together in seemingly infinite contorted combinations, wrapping themselves around one another with a flexibility that defies belief as this couple find their rhythm and place together.

The final number is easily the best of the night, choreographed by Christopher Bruce in 2009 and first performed by the Acosta Danza company in 2018, it is a tribute to 50s and 60s music, movement and visual styles that, like Lidberg’s work takes its influence from the movies with inspiration coming from the work of Jerome Robbins in West Side Story among others but stripped down and tied to a series of additional move taken from the song lyrics by The Rolling Stones. ‘Little Red Rooster’ leads to a head-bobbing forward walk with downturned hands that recurs throughout the 27-minute piece, while the cult of rock and roll is visualised as in-turned knees, hair slicks and finger snaps as each song tells an individual story while wrapped in a stylishly colour coordinated and wonderfully unified whole.

Across the evening there is a unifying aesthetic and while the pieces are more successful as the night wears on and Acosta himself appears in the final number – much to the delight of the crowd – but at every point he wants his young and talented company to shine. As the title of this show so aptly suggests Cuban dance is evolving and there is no doubting that the astonishingly limber precision and versatility of the Acosta Danza is leading this transformation.

Runs Until:  23 November 2019 | Image: Buby

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