The week in dance: Carlos Acosta: On Before; Rambert Summer Livestream – review

·3 min read

Carlos Acosta is 48 years old. He is director of not one but two companies: Birmingham Royal Ballet and Acosta Danza, based in his homeland of Cuba. He has struggled to keep both going through a pandemic. He must be exhausted. Why on earth would he want to get back on stage, in a small-scale touring show for himself and the Cuban dancer Laura Rodríguez?

He says it’s because he needs to dance. “I miss it,” he adds. What was clear, at the premiere at Norwich Theatre Royal (which is co-producing the show), is how much audiences miss him. They seemed to wrap him in their arms, in a response that had such intensity, it made the evening feel rather more than the sum of its parts.

In truth, On Before, an adaptation of an 80-minute show created by Acosta in 2010, is a slightly cumbersome portmanteau: nine disparate pieces yoked together in a trajectory that moves from the complexities of life towards death. It contains two standout solos. In Russell Maliphant’s Two, a piece made famous by Sylvie Guillem, Acosta brings different qualities, sharp and statuesque, revelling in each detail of the movement, confined in a square of light. Rodríguez, a supple, attractive dancer, has her best moment in Footnote to Ashton, giving weight to the grave lyricism of Kim Brandstrup’s choreography as she moves within a frame of candles.

There’s also Nosotros, a new duet by Raúl Reinoso, which helps bind the evening together as a study of the messiness of human relationships. Its steps are perfectly pitched to show off both dancers, using their intrinsic classicism – as in Will Tuckett’s On Before, which opens the night – but letting it flow into more contemporary moves. Acosta looks in fine fighting fettle, and Rodríguez matches him both in style and in presence, which is no mean achievement.

At the close, the choir that has awkwardly wandered on and off stage to fill time in the pauses between pieces finally gets to sing, intoning Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, full of grief, as Acosta mourns. He devised the evening just after the death of his mother; the rapturous reception confirmed the way it strikes a perfect, melancholy chord in our own strange times.

Meanwhile, Rambert has continued its pandemic policy of making new work for online audiences in its Summer Livestream. Eye Candy, a world premiere by siblings Imre and Marne van Opstal, features their own brilliant design, which puts the dancers into latex breast plates that make them look naked.

It’s a superb concept for a piece that examines attitudes to the body and the taboos around it, not least when the latex becomes disconcertingly wrinkled and sweaty. The choreography is interesting too, full of Bosch-like images of oppression and threat interspersed with more tender moments that culminate in a tentative note of hope.

As for Marion Motin’s Rouge, remade for film, well that’s just a blast. The choreographer, who made her name with Christine and the Queens, sets Rambert’s brilliant dancers posing to Micka Luna’s pounding beats. With butting heads, slinky hips and the occasional hint of a smile, it’s sweaty, sexy and intense – and totally fabulous.

Star ratings (out of five)
Carlos Acosta: On Before
★★★
Rambert Summer Livestream
★★★

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