Carlos Acosta

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Carlos Acosta
Carlos Acosta.jpg
Acosta after dancing Tzigane, Royal Opera House, March 2008
Born (1973-06-02) 2 June 1973 (age 40)
Havana, Cuba
Nationality Cuban
Occupation Ballet dancer
Current group The Royal Ballet
Former groups English National Ballet
National Ballet of Cuba
Houston Ballet

Carlos Yunior Acosta Quesada CBE (born 2 June 1973) is a Cuban-born British ballet dancer. He has danced with many companies including the English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. He has been a permanent member of The Royal Ballet since 1998, and in 2003 was promoted to Principal Guest Artist, a rank which reduced his commitment, enabling him to concentrate on a growing schedule of international guest appearances and tours. He has been called "the greatest male dancer of his generation".[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Acosta was born in Havana, Cuba, on 2 June 1973, the eleventh and last child in an impoverished Havana family whose home was in one of the rougher quarters. His father was a truck driver, and his mother often suffered from health problems. Acosta grew up with no toys, sometimes went shoeless, and did not even have a birthday cake until he turned 23. The streets of his neighborhood provided plenty of entertainment, however, and he spent his time playing soccer, break-dancing, and raiding nearby mango groves with his friends. He was an over-energetic child, and Pedros Acosta, his father, felt that his youngest son would soon land in serious trouble. Dance training at one of the state-funded schools, his father decided, would teach the boy discipline and provide him with a free lunch every day. He studied ballet at the Cuban National Ballet School with many influential teachers including Ramona de Sáa. In June 1991 he received his diploma with maximum qualifications and a gold medal.

Career[edit]

Acosta, of mixed Spanish and African heritage, came to prominence in the early 1990s while still in his teens, and North American and European dance companies began offering him lead romantic roles over the next decade. After five years in Houston, Acosta joined London's Royal Ballet in 1998. With his fabled grace and athleticism, he has earned comparisons to Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev. A writer for London's Independent newspaper described Acosta as "a dancer who slashes across space faster than anyone else, who lacerates the air with shapes so clear and sharp they seem to throw off sparks".[2]

Awards[edit]

Companies and roles[edit]

From 1989 to 1991, Acosta performed throughout the world guesting with many companies including the Compagnia Teatro Nuovo di Torino in Italy, where he danced alongside Luciana Savignano, and the Teatro Teresa Carreño de Caracas in Venezuela.

English National Ballet[edit]

At the invitation of Ivan Nagy, Acosta danced with the English National Ballet in London during the 1991/92 season. He made his debut in the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor and also appeared in Cinderella, partnering Eva Evdokimova and Ludmila Semenyaka, Le Spectre de la Rose, Les Sylphides and as the Prince in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker.

National Ballet of Cuba[edit]

In 1992 and 1993 he was a member of the National Ballet of Cuba under the artistic director Alicia Alonso, rising to principal dancer in 1994. In October 1993 and September 1994 he toured with the company to Madrid, where he danced various roles including Albrecht in Giselle, Basilio in Don Quixote and Siegfried in Swan Lake.

Houston Ballet[edit]

In November 1993 he was invited by Ben Stevenson, the artistic director of Houston Ballet, to join the company as a principal dancer, and he made his American stage debut as the Prince in The Nutcracker. Following this, his repertory included:

In 1997 he created the role of Frederick in Stevenson's Dracula and in 1998 he added the role of Misgir in the première of Stevenson's The Snow Maiden, partnering Nina Ananiashvili.

The Royal Ballet[edit]

In 1998, Acosta joined The Royal Ballet, London, under the direction of Anthony Dowell. His roles with the company have included:

In the 1999/2000 season he performed:

During the 2001/2 season he made his debut as Basilio in Nureyev's Don Quixote, and in the 2002/2003 season he made his debut as the title role in George Balanchine's Apollo. He has created roles in Ashley Page's Hidden Variables and William Tuckett's 3:4.

Acosta was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to ballet.[5]

Guest artist[edit]

Acosta was a guest artist with the American Ballet Theatre during the company's Metropolitan Opera House season in the summer of 2002, when he performed Prince Désiré in Sleeping Beauty Act III, Oberon in The Dream, Colas in La Fille mal gardée and Conrad in Le Corsaire. He rejoined the ABT (under artistic director Kevin McKenzie) as Principal Dancer, for the company's 2003 autumn season at New York City Center, to perform in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and a new staging of Raymonda (Grand Pas Classique).

He has performed Basilio in Nureyev's version of Don Quixote, as well as Solor in Nureyev's La Bayadère, with the Paris Opera Ballet.

In recent years, Acosta has had a career as an international guest artist, appearing in the US, Russia, the Netherlands, Chile, Argentina, Greece, Japan, Italy, Germany and France. In June 2008 he guested for the first time with the Australian Ballet, in Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun, partnered by AB principal Kirsty Martin.

Television and film performances[edit]

In 1997 CBS News filmed Acosta for a special report for their programme 60 Minutes (broadcast in January 1998), following him during his performances for the Houston Ballet and relaxing with friends and family in Cuba.

Television performances include two live BBC broadcasts from The Royal Opera House: the Opening Celebration in December 1999 when Acosta performed the Man's Solo in Le Corsaire, and in February 2000 the role of Franz in Ninette de Valois' Coppélia. Most recently Acosta was featured in "The Reluctant Ballet Dancer", a programme in the Imagine series shown on BBC1 on 9 July 2003 and presented by Alan Yentob. He was also interviewed for the BBC's HardTalk programme which was broadcast on Christmas Day 2003. In 2006 he was filmed in the BBC studios performing a dance from Tocororo, which was broadcast on the Newsnight programme.

On 5 February 2004, the world première of Dance Cuba: Dreams of Flight, a film by Cynthia Newport featuring Acosta and other former members of the National Ballet of Cuba, took place at the Miami International Film Festival.

Acosta also appeared as a main character in the Natalie Portman directed segment of New York, I Love You.

Tocororo - A Cuban Tale[edit]

Tocororo is Acosta's own ballet and has been touring theatres worldwide to high acclaim.[citation needed]

Tocororo is the story of a young Cuban boy who leaves his family and home in the Cuban countryside to find a new life in a city. It is loosely based on Acosta's own life experiences. It is set to original music by Miguel Nuñez, which blends popular and symphonic Cuban styles and is performed live on stage by a group of five Cuban musicians.

Acosta chose the 17-strong company from dancers in Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, the Cuban National Ballet and Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. The "young protagonist" is played by Yonah Acosta, Acosta's younger nephew, and for six performances the central role was played by José Oduardo Perez.

Filmography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • No Way Home - a Cuban Dancer's Story by Carlos Acosta was published in 2007 by HarperCollins UK, Scribner US and Schott in Germany. It tells the story of his rise from a poor boy in Havana to becoming the leading male ballet dancer in the World, chosen by the Bolshoi Ballet to dance the lead in Spartacas that year.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta 'thrilled' with CBE honour". ITV.com. ITV plc. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Arts & Books: From Havana, trailing sparks. Nadine Meisner from The Independent. 26 December 1998. Retrieved on 25 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Carlos Acosta". Princess Grace Foundation-USA. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  4. ^ Jones, Nina (30 December 2013). "Queen Elizabeth II's New Year Honors List Released". WWD. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60728. p. 9. 31 December 2013.

External links[edit]