Review: Carlos Acosta with Guest Artists from Ballet Nacional de Cuba at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 23 October 2007
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Wednesday 24 October 2007

The evening of Carlos Acosta with friends from Ballet Nacional de Cuba had to be seen to be believed. The ill informed programme of four pieces, connected by a running narrative choreographed by Acosta himself, showed the performers in an overly assessable evening of ballet.

The audience at Sadler’s Wells could be described as a typical ballet audience, more likely to be seen at the Opera House watching traditional works than at a contemporary venue such as Sadler’s Wells.

The main choreographer, Albert Mendez, brought in South American flavours to naive narrative themes but overall the evening showed a lack of character development within the narrative sections. Although the work shown were reconstructions of Mendez’s 1970s award winning choreographies, there was an unendearing innocence throughout. The truly outstanding pas de duex from Le Corsaire was the evenings saving grace.

Munecos (Dolls) originally choreographed in 1978 saw the age old tale of two dolls coming to life in the dead of night. The work was light hearted and choreographed well to the punctuated sound score, however the choreography brought nothing new to the theme which has been choreographed on numerous occasions from Petruska to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The movement mixed traditional ballet vocabulary with a vaudeville style of performance, that produced a pleasant duet.

El Rio Y el Bosque (The River and the Forest), again by Mendez, saw an awkward duet between Veronica Corveas and Jose Losada. The mixture of ballet and movements evoking tribal dance forms did not flow as well as the choreographer presumable intended. The images seen were reminiscent of early American Modernism due to their simplicity and two-dimensional characters but this choreography suffered from a lack of character development, evoking little empathy from the audience.

The second act opened with Paso a tres a light-hearted trio based on errors and accidents of dance. As the work was framed as a parody it gained a number of hearty laughs from audience members. Victor Gili hammed up his performance of the awkward prince, trying to hide his mistakes with an award winning smile. The double fish dive that the end of the piece was humorous, with Gili catching both girls at once.

The last work of the evening, a reconstruction of the pas de duex from Le Corsaire by Alicia Alonso, saw both Viengsay Valdes and Carlos Acosta as true technicians. The audience were dazzled by fast spins from Valdes and the legendary high jumps from Acosta. Although strange to see this duet without any set, the stark lighting allowed the audience to enjoy the movements without the context.

The most curios parts of the evening were the interlinking narrative, choreographed by Acosta, depicting a couple arguing due to the girl constantly having her head in a book. Although this idea allowed the individual choreographies of the evening to be viewed as if the dancers were images from a book, the Disney like concept was weak. The most comical part of these links was the choreographed finally which saw the female reader dance with all the ‘characters’ before her partner returned full of forgiveness. The choreography may have sat well within a Broadway musical, but not to sum up this evening of ballet.

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