Review: Carlos Acosta in Tocororo at Coliseum

Performance: 2-5 August
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Friday 4 August 2006

It seems like the London summeris incomplete without a touch of Cuba. Carlos Acosta’s full-length ballet loosely based on his own life was nurtured by Alistair Spalding and his team at Sadler’s Wells where it was performed in the summer seasons of 2003/4. Now, after a year’s absence it has returned, but since Brazil has taken root at the Wells, Cuba has found a new home at the Coliseum. It’s a good time for Acosta’s tale to return since it seems that London can’t get enough of Carlos: having performed so unstintingly with the Royal Ballet last season to defy the term ‘Guest Principal’, he has very recently wowed critics and public alike with a brilliant mixed show at Sadler’s Wells. He is surely one of the world’s elite dancers at the very height of his ability.

‘Tocororo’ is a poor country boy who leaves home for the bright lights where he remains an outsider until finding love and acceptance. The earlier incarnations of this simple tale were disappointingly littered withincongruous and occasionally embarrassing pauses that did nothing to enhance the narrative. Ten minutes have now been cut from the running time, which stands at an uninterrupted hour-and-a half, creating a slicker show by allowing the story to roll seamlessly forward without unnecessary punctuation.

The other major change, necessitated by different circumstances at The Coliseum, is that the cast no longer get down into the aisles after the first curtain calls and entreat the audience to join in. This works well (as in 2003) when the majority leap to their feet but, as when I saw it in 2004, it can be a deflating and contradictory experience when met by a less enthusiastic response.

The fusion of Cuban rhythms and dance with classical ballet remains a powerful device especially in creating the distinction between the untrendy country boy and the streetwise city gang. The crux of the narrative lies in the gradual blurring of the boundaries between Tocororo (whose classical ballet morphs towards Buena Vista) and his love interest, Clarita (the outstandingly talented Verónica Corveas) whose dance style evolves to meet him in the middle ground. ‘Tocororo’ is at its best in the two sensitively constructed duets between Acosta and Corveas and in the second of the dance competitions between Tocororo and his chief ridiculer, The Moor.

The lead trio of Acosta, Corveas and Alexander Varona (as The Moor) have all grown confidenly into their roles and Varona (who is now settled in the UK as a dancer with Russell Maliphant’s company) has added more comic panache to a less sinister interpretation of The Moor. His arrogant cigar-smoking solo is much more entertaining than I recall from before.

Whilst there is no doubt that ‘Tocororo’ was a great commercial success on its first showings in London, this slightly trimmed version has more artistic merit simply by being a story that is better told and, as the temperatures cool, an evening of unrestrained Cuban heat is just what we need to raise the spirit.

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