Madrid’s Teatro Real is enjoying the visit of Carlos Acosta’s Cuban troupe Acosta Danza. The company is presenting its mixed bill “Evolution”, with five works by five different contemporary choreographers. Each piece has its own tone and style, yet the bill leaves an impression of unity. The range of emotions and dance vocabularies seem to stem from the same source. The company’s strong artistic identity is perhaps the key for this accomplishment. Acosta dancers perform with such technical skill, stage presence and emotional commitment that the personality of each piece emerges with clarity and determination. 

Acosta Danza in Satori
© Javier del Real | Teatro Real

The bill opens with Raúl Reinoso’s Satori (2018), which has a commissioned score by Pepe Gavilondo. It evokes an inner journey in search of spiritual awakening, with a final reward of enlightening after an intense struggle with conflicting forces. The choreography is rich in kinetic imagery, most of it built upon the sculptural and dynamic qualities of the group of bodies moving in union. Satori focuses on the interiority of human experience, but it is an ensemble piece. It is the power of the assembly of dancing forms which confirms the emotional force of the work. In this performance, the central dancer was Zeleidy Crespo, a robust performer with a feline presence onstage. 

Mermaid (2017) is a duet specially created for Acosta himself by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who partnered Liliana Menéndez on this occasion. His choreography pivots on close, intimate partnering. Cherkaoui proposes a myriad of forms and shapes, all of them poignant and delicate. They evolve fluidly, even on those moments when they become sharper and more energetic. The music accompanying the dancing, composed by Cherkaoui together with Woojae Park, has an Asian flavour that quietly contributes to the atmosphere of intimacy. The final notes, from Erik Satie, round off the creation's serene quality.

Carlos Acosta and Liliana Menéndez in Mermaid
© Javier del Real | Teatro Real

Paysage, Soudain, La Nuit (2018) by Pontus Lidberg works in this bill as a dance divertissement that provides a pause for lightness and joy. It is wrapped in white and ochre colours, with a light design that recalls the relaxed, golden air of a summer day. The choreography is similarly gentle and gay, matching the tranquil sensuality of the Cuban rhythms in the music (by Leo Brouwer and Stefan Levin).

The well-known solo Two (1997), by Russell Maliphant to music by Andy Cowton, is a simple restrained dance that might become extremely poignant in the hands of a sensitive and powerfully expressive dancer (Acosta on this occasion). Eschewing motions across the stage and anchoring the dancer at a fixed point downstage, it produces a mesmerising effect. The movement material is mainly made of contortions of the upper body, arm movements and spins. The zenith lighting, dim and warm, creates Caravaggio-like illuminations in the body of the dancer that are as suggestive and as penetrating as the light in the canvases of the Italian painter.

Carlos Acosta and Liliana Menéndez in Mermaid
© Javier del Real | Teatro Real

The last work of the bill, Twelve (2017) by Jorge Crecis reprises the atmosphere of fun and camaraderie of Paysage, but enlarges and intensifies it. The work portrays a group of people (soldiers? youngsters?) playing an outdoor game. They play with multiple bottles of water, which they toss around, project into the air, and exchange with each other. The choreography exploits the energy and sense of excitement inherent to extreme physicality, particularly that emerging from the shared efforts of a cheerful gathering.  

All five works in “Evolution” shone in Madrid. Acosta dancers infused each of them with a distinctive emotional tenor that was warmly welcome by the audience. The performance was forceful as well as elegant and touching. The added bonus of the evening was watching Acosta himself dancing. It was a pleasure to see that he is still an accomplished, responsive partner and an intensely expressive solo dancer. 

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