Dance

Acosta Danza: Debut

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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Mary Brennan, four stars

ALMOST everything – bar the Acosta name, of course - was an unknown quantity. Four of the five choreographers – with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui the lone exception - were new to us while the young dancers had never performed in the UK before. In every sense, this was Debut incarnate.

No need, however, to make allowances for new arrivals on-stage. They unstintingly deliver an energy, versatility and focus that resonates with Acosta’s vision of putting Cuban dance-making on the world stage, and while not every element in this ‘sampler of styles’ has equal appeal, the overall impression is one of tremendously engaging potential.

The opening piece, The Crossing Over Niagara (by Cuban choreographer Marianela Boan) dates from 1987 but looks and feels timeless. An axis of light, like a tightrope, opens up between two men, one pale-skinned, one dark: lies in a foetal-coil at one end, Carlos Luis Blanco stands at the other. If Blanco’s slow traversing solo conjures up the tensions of brinkmanship, their duet - a sustained calligraphy of prowess - celebrates mutual trust across society, not just a high-wire.

Though Acosta is determined not to hog the limelight, he does appear, partnering Marta Ortega in Cherkaoui’s duet of vulnerabilities and tender caring, Mermaid. Korean vocals growl and wail, Ortega – in clinging red, empty glass in hand – buckles and flops while Acosta nurtures her into walking. It’s an expressive highlight in a programme where – despite fine dancing – the neo-classicism of Belles-Lettres (by Justin Peck) feels passé and Goyo Montero’s Imponderable is overly enigmatic and elusive. Hurrah for the closing exuberance of Jorge Crecis’s Twelve where water bottles are tossed, and caught, at teasing, testing speed by a dozen dancers. Virtuosity meets camraderie at full tilt - the very essence of Acosta Danza.

Acosta Danza: L to R Alejandro Silva and Carlos Luis Blanco in The Crossing Over Niagara (by Cuban choreographer Marianela Boan)

photographer: Johann Persson

Acosta Danza: L to R Marta Ortega and Carlos Acosta in Mermaid (choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui)

photographer: Johann Persson