In Review

Evolution, Acosta Danza review: the Cuban master's showcase

An arresting opening gives rise to a show varied in style and inspiration

It’s hard to imagine a more striking opening to a show than the opening to Evolution – the varied showcase by Carlos Acosta’s dance company that will go on tour next year. On a dimly lit stage, completely bare-chested men and women (greeted by a few stifled gasps in the Sadler’s Wells audience) writhe poetically, all muscle and rib cage.

They’re wearing what looks like a set of identical, flowing blue skirts, but is actually a single massive sheet that they are poking out of. It is beautiful to watch, and while the rest of the show is not always as arresting, Acosta Danza do continue to impress.

The opening piece of the four-part show, entitled Satori (a word from Zen Buddhism meaning spiritual illumination), is choreographed by Raúl Reinoso, one of the company’s members. It’s a colourful and dramatic showcase of everything the dancers can do.

When he put his company together, Acosta’s aim was to create a team for dancing everything from ballet to hip hop – and it shows. Each piece is as varied in style and inspiration as the show is as a whole.

Acosta himself makes an appearance in the finale – Christopher Bruce’s joyful 1991 piece Rooster, set to the music of the Rolling Stones. Now 46, the Cuban master is still able to leap and twirl with the members of his company half his age, and his charisma could fill football stadium. In Rooster, a piece that casts the men of the 1960s as “preening cockerels” while women look on in “ironic amusement”, the dancers capture both the lightness and intensity of flirtation in a way that is rarely captured on stage.

In between those two pieces are the Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg’s Paysage, Soudain, la nuit, and Sidi Labi Cherkaoui’s much-performed Faun, set to a combination of Debussy’s score and ethereal additional music by Nitin Sawhney. The first is an exploration of “youth between twilights and dawns” through rumba, which, while pleasant, doesn’t quite stir as many emotions as you might expect. Faun, performed exquisitely by Carlos Luis Blanco and Zeleidy Crespo, is gripping, and of all the pieces most explicitly puts the skills of this exceptional company of dancers on display.

In every piece they are able to move as one, and to bear each-other’s weight as they clamber over one another as if no weight is being transferred at all.

It’s exciting to see Acosta’s skills as a creative director on display before he takes the reins at the Birmingham Royal Ballet next year. But while little fault can be found with Evolution as a show, it does perhaps leave its audience craving a few more show-stopping moments.

Evolution is showing at Sadler's Wells until 23 November.

The spring 2020 tour of Acosta Danza’s Evolution opens at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton on 3 & 4 March www.danceconsortium.com.

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