For a generation of dance fans, Carlos Acosta is one of the greatest modern-day stars of the classical ballet world. Born in Havana and trained at the National School of Ballet in Cuba, he has danced for most of the leading ballet companies around the world and was a principal guest artist with the Royal Ballet from 2003 where he danced lead roles in all the classical productions until he retired from the company in 2015.
But now he returns to the international dance scene with renewed energy and vitality, introducing the very best dancers from his Cuban homeland with his brand new company Acosta Danza, which will be performing Debut on the Theatre Royal stage on May 31 and June 1.
For the company’s Norwich appearance, Carlos will make a guest appearance with his dancers, offering a rare chance for audiences to see this ballet icon perform in a contemporary programme which takes inspiration from one of the most colourful and vibrant of Caribbean islands with a lust for life and dance.
Here Carlos answers some questions posed by communications officer Judy Foster and describes his excitement at this new venture:
Are you excited to be touring the UK with your own company, and are you enjoying visiting different parts of the country?
It is a wonderful experience because in the United Kingdom I developed a very important stage of my career and my personal life. Presenting my company to the same audience that attended my work as a dancer is like giving continuity to a cycle, everyone can continue to value my work that now multiplies in the art of the excellent dancers of Acosta Danza. It is really very exciting.
What inspired you to set up your own school of dance in Cuba?
Cuba is a country of great dancers. Every year, young people graduate with excellent conditions for dance. I want to take advantage of that. I want everyone to admire the dance talent of my country, the Cuban culture, because Acosta Danza is more than a dance project. It has all the good things that exist in Cuba in terms of music, visual arts, performing arts, etc.
Did you meet with any unexpected challenges and what are you most enjoying about running your own company?
The challenges always exist, I always face them. So far we have been able to overcome them and move forward happily. It gives me a tremendous enthusiasm the way in which the members of Acosta Danza have assumed my vision as if it were theirs. I posed my wish and opened a door for them and together we are developing projects that hopefully will be long lasting for the benefit of generations to come. The dancers are among the best in Cuba, great artists with great stage personalities. They are different between them, and they form a very attractive group, all together and when dancing as couples.
How would you describe the style of dance that Acosta Danza performs and what makes it distinctive?
Acosta Danza develops a line that mixes contemporary dance with classical ballet. All the manifestations of the dance can be assumed by the company, the folkloric dance, the urban dances, always respecting our concept of mixing everything with the academic and contemporary dance.
Can you tell us about the dancers you will be bringing to Norwich and the exciting choreographers you will be introducing to UK audiences?
I think the program we are going to present is a good example to show what Acosta Danza is. The dancers who will act come from different backgrounds, from contemporary dance and ballet, and all together dance works of different styles, all with the same level of quality. The audience will be able to see choreographies of the Cuban Marianela Boán; also from Justin Peck, Goyo Montero, Jorge Crecis and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. They are all excellent artists and their pieces allow the dancers of Acosta Danza to show their versatility.
What are your hopes and ambitions for your company?
I want Acosta Danza to become one of the best companies in the world, that the great choreographers find in it the ideal place to create their works. I know it sounds ambitious, but we are working to achieve it and we have had very good results.
There is a real passion for dance in Cuba combined with a strong work ethic – what is it about the island that creates this?
In Cuba dancing is something natural. You go down the street and people move and walk and make gestures that look like if they were dancing. For Cubans dance is very important. There is a completely free artistic education system that develops the talents of children, regardless of the social stratum they come from. Everyone who has talent can develop it academically. The result is a country with great musicians and excellent professional dancers, with a respect and an ethic formed in school classrooms.
Having danced for some of the world’s greatest ballet companies and in almost every classical role, do you miss the rigorous training and discipline that comes with performing classical ballet at the very highest level?
Of course! There were many years under that rigor. But I understand that it is time to develop other things that I always wanted to do and my career as a dancer did not allow me. Now comes the opportunity to do it and I am taking advantage of it. I demand the same rigor and discipline in Acosta Danza. And I’m still dancing.
Are there elements of life away from that very pressured lifestyle that you are particularly enjoying, such as spending time with your young family?
My family is the best thing that has happened to me on a personal level; I live for my family, trying to make sure that my work does not rob me of the time of being with my wife, of seeing my daughters grow up and being by their side. And it is very difficult because my work with the company in Cuba demands a lot from me. But whenever I have a chance, I run away and I run next to my wife and three girls.
Are there other projects you are pursuing or hope to get involved with in the future, both in your home country and elsewhere?
The projects are many. We have proposals to act in various scenarios around the world. A lot of expectation has been created with Acosta Danza. We are in a time that we want the world to know us and value us.