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The pas de deux by Carmen (Laura Treto) and Don José (Javier Rojas) was one of the highlights of Carlos Acosta’s version of Carmen. Photo: Yander Zamora

Carlos Acosta, world ballet star, opted for a selection of contemporary pieces for the premiere in Havana (April 8) of his company, Acosta Danza, delighting a full house gathered in the Lorca Hall of the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana.

It could be said that the new director went for a safe bet as the curtains were drawn back on the first piece, Alrededor no hay nada, choreography, costume and lighting by Goyo Montero of Spain, who received a standing ovation.

The piece doesn’t use music, but rather the dancers accompany the inflections in the voices of Joaquín Sabina and Vinícius de Moraes, as they recite their poetry. There are ten dancers on stage, each with a different story to tell, and in the absence of music, as Montero himself said, “They dance to the voice.”

Since his first piece titled El día de la creación, which won the first prize at the 5th Iberoamerican Competition of Choreography CIC 2006, and was premiered the same year by the National Ballet of Cuba, Montero has seen huge success, which was repeated with Alrededor no hay nada.

Fauno, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, a current reference of contemporary dance (who has promised an original piece for Acosta Danza for next October) was the second proposal of the night.

With music by Claude Debussy and additional arrangements by Nitin Sawhney, the piece is a duet for a male and female dancer, in this case performed by Yanelis Godoy and Julio León (both of the Danza Contemporanea de Cuba company).

Photo: Yander Zamora

Fauno, as you might guess from the title, has as its starting point the famous choreography created and performed by Nijinsky for the Ballets Russes from the poem by Mallarme’s “L’après-midi d’un faune” (The Afternoon of a Faun). A sensual, fluid and properly interpreted piece, which moved the entire theater.

Before the intermission, the program included the world premiere of the piece De punta a cabo, by Cuban Alexis Fernández (Maca), with an excellent musical combination from Kumar, Kike Wolf – based on “La Bella Cubana” by José White – and Omar Sosa. An ambitious choreography.

To close the opening night, the long-awaited new version of Carmen, choreographed by Carlos Acosta himself, which was first performed by The Royal Ballet in London last year.

Georges Bizet’s music is still electrifying and Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite is magical. The Symphony Orchestra of the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater, conducted by Giovanni Duarte, measured up.

For his ballet in one act, Acosta encapsulated the story of Carmen, from the novel of the same name by Prosper Mérimée, a love triangle of jealousy and revenge, for which he uses a dance vocabulary that combines contemporary, flamenco and classical ballet.

The minimal set, with its huge red circle (perhaps representing a bullring) immediately captures attention, dominating the action together with the imposing figure of the bull/fate.

The beginning undoubtedly impacts, with Carmen dancing within a semi circle of men, who slowly strip off their clothes, followed by the pas de deux of Carmen and Don José, ingeniously trapped behind the bars of an imaginary prison.

Laura Treto (from Danza Contemporanea de Cuba) was Carmen; Javier Rojas (recent graduate of the Cuban National School of Ballet) was Don José and Luis Valle (former principal dancer of the National Ballet of Cuba) took on the role of Escamillo.

Tim Hatley’s use of costume was at the very least surprising, but at times inconsistent, for example, a Don José appropriately dressed as a soldier, but the bullfighter Escamillo wearing a shirt and tie.

The premiere of Acosta Danza was widely applauded by the audience (including many dancers, choreographers and the directors of several Cuban companies), who filled the Lorca Hall.

Photo: Yander Zamora

It must be noted that the presence on stage of Carlos Acosta himself, one of the most acclaimed ballet dancers in the world, would have been very exciting. Everyone hoped to see him as Don José, succumbing to the charms of Carmen, or better yet, as Escamillo, a fitting role given his wonderful technique and strong stage presence. However, this time he remained behind the scenes.

The promise has been made; Carlos Acosta will be on stage for his upcoming classic season. With Acosta Danza, Havana’s vast range of dance companies has been qualitatively expanded.

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