Acosta Danza: Debut (4 stars)

Acosta Danza – Debut

A crowd-pleasing programme from the brand new company formed by Cuba's most celebrated dancer

Arranging a programme of five dance pieces can't be an easy task, and while there are undoubted benefits to kicking an evening off with your A-game stuff, it does make for a tough act to follow.

This is the case with Carlos Acosta's Debut, a programme of five works curated and commissioned by the celebrated Havana-born dancer, with a cast drawn from Cuba. Marianela Boán's opener El cruce sobre el Niágara is a tribute to tightrope walker Charles Blondin, who crossed the Niagara Falls with a man on his shoulders, and is quietly spectacular: an elegant, intricate, moving piece of pure expression, flushing its precise minimalist lines full of raw humanity.

Almost naked, Carlos Luis Blanco walks, turns, squats with concentrated slowness towards Alejandro Silva lying in foetal position. When he arrives, his legs are grasped by Silva, allowing him to lean forward weightlessly before Silva stands and launches into a sprightly scherzo of springs and twists. As the piece progresses, both dancers play to and with each other, mirroring and twinning in a long oblong of light to a score by Olivier Messiaen. In a breathtaking climax one takes the other upon his shoulders and they spin, their arms in a double layer of propellers, their strength and trust underpinning the grace with which they move.

The power of El cruce is matched only by the evening's other duet, guest starring Acosta himself – though the real limelight belongs to the outstanding Marta Ortega. She is the titular Mermaid cast adrift in her pointe shoes which choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui uses to teetering, dizzying effect. In a slash of red dress, her frail pitter-patter contrasts with the wild swoops and spins she is launched into when partnered with Acosta. There's a glamour to Cherkaoui's style but it doesn't cheapen the work, instead soaking it in a mist of erotic intrigue and melancholy. There is nothing little about this mermaid; Cherkaoui has created a distinctly grown-up fairytale.

The line-up is completed by three ensemble pieces, Justin Peck's classical ballet Belles-Lettres, ponderous Imponderable by Goyo Montero and a playful finale Twelve by Jorge Crecis, which riffs on the theme of tossing around water bottles filled with neon glowsticks.

Peck's piece, though beautifully performed, feels prim, and while Imponderable starts with the mystical drama of dancers puffing smoke machines around each others' movements, later it starts to ramble into fragmented group sequences. Twelve is a fun way to end the evening, contrasting patterns of dance with patterns of arranged water bottles, tempos mixed between the slowness of a stretch and the whizz of a flying bottle. With the high notes he hits and the sheer versatility of his dancers, Acosta has certainly whetted our appetites for the future of his company.

Reviewed at Edinburgh Festival Theatre.

Acosta Danza: Debut

Former Royal Ballet star Carlos Acosta tours his debut show, featuring the work of five contemporary choreographers, including Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

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