It’s thrilling to see the building confidence of Carlos Acosta’s Cuban-based dance company. There’s a sense of cohesion, shared purpose and a unique identity drawn from a vibrant range of influences. And Acosta’s varied repertoire for Evolution, the second programme brought to the UK, let us see his dancers’ range.
Satori, created by the company dancer Raúl Reinoso, was the first of four pieces – a representation of the journey towards spiritual enlightenment that involved extensive use of a huge piece of billowing purple silk. Bare-chested dancers wore it like a huge communal skirt as they vogued through elaborate armography; it provided an arching canopy, Grim Reaper-like cloaks, then obscured the dancers’ top halves. The imperious shaven-headed Zeleidy Crespo stalked through the piece, goddess-like en pointe, with endlessly extended, gorgeously exaggerated angular lines. She seemed to be the enlightenment that was being sought – in a powerful pas de trois she kept slipping from eager male grasps. As the piece built to its conclusion there were hints of santería as much as Zen Buddhism, with an ensemble movement of African-influenced steps and an ecstatic whirl of dancing that suggested spirit possession. It was powerfully danced; however, the work would have benefited from clarifying its concept and finding more focus.
Paysage, Soudain, la nuit was a distinct contrast: a short sunnily celebratory piece from the Swedish choreographer Pontius Lidberg. A bucolic setting was summoned up by Elizabet Cerviño’s art installation of a gently rippling field of wheat – happy young farm workers converged for a night of dance and romance under the stars. Very socialist realist, but gently and persuasively danced to the rumba rhythms of Lee Brouwer and Stefan Levin, with a flurry of spinning, sweeping legs, raised arms and dropping to the floor. Seventeen minutes without much variation in tone did make it rather flat, though.
Not something that could be said about Faun, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s homage to Diaghilev from 2009. The erotic power of this duet was breathtakingly realised by Crespo and Carlos Luis Blanco, who completely inhabited Cherkaoui’s hyper-elastic choreography as the faun and nymph discover each other in a woodland glade, with Debussy’s score augmented by Nitin Sawhney. This was full-bodied sensuality with gymnastic contortions and moments when the pair were so entangled they moved as though they were one. Earthy yet refined, it was a heartstopping highlight.
The night closed with Rooster, Christopher Bruce’s sharp-suited comment on 1960s mores, played out to the music of the Rolling Stones. Acosta took the stage for this piece and showed he still had the energy, superlative ability and full-wattage charisma to keep the audience in the palm of his hand. Strutting and swaggering, shooting cuffs and adjusting ties, he and the other male dancers exuded an unsettling, peacocking menace as they embarked on a battle of the sexes with the women – who held their own with quick slaps and kicks.
Dance Consortium’s touring of Acosta Danza continues in the spring, opening in Southampton on 3 March 2020. More details: www.danceconsortium.com