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Carlos Acosta Talks Bringing His Fledgling Cuban Company to the U.S.
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
The ensemble of 20 will have its full-company American debut at New York City Center April 25–27, with a mixed repertory that includes works by the Belgium-based Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Cuban choreographer Marianela Boán and company member Raúl Reinoso.
Why did you decide to found a company in Cuba?
I wanted to show the world the artistic wealth of my country. This company synthesizes he miscegenation that defines me, not only as an artist but also as an individual.
Cuba was the ideal place for my company because it is a mestizo country, very strong in the arts. In Cuba, dance is an essential manifestation of idiosyncrasy, and there is a national education system that every year graduates excellent dancers. During my career as a dancer I dreamed of a company in Cuba and finally it was time to make it happen.
Are you fully independent of the state?
In Cuba, a project of this nature cannot be done without the blessing from the minister of culture. We are also associated with the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. And we count on the help of private donors who have followed my career over the years.
Acosta still performs in certain works with his company. Photo by Andrej Uspenski, Courtesy Sadler's Wells
How would you describe the company?
Fundamentally, we follow a contemporary line using elements of classical ballet. We include all dance styles, from the most lyrical to the most sporting, the abstract, the folkloric and the urban.
What do you see as the ideal balance between Cuban and international choreographers?
In Cuba there is a young generation of choreographers with many desires to make themselves known to the world. I want to give them the opportunity to develop. At the same time, I want to bring Acosta Danza to creators that I admire on the international scene, regardless of style or vision.
"This piece has become one of the most applauded by the public and critics," says Acosta of Boán's El Cruce Sobre el Niágara. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy Sadler's Wells
What draws you to the work of Marianela Boán, whose male duet, El Cruce Sobre el Niágara (The Crossing Over the Niagara), will be included in your New York season?
El Cruce Sobre el Niágara is a minimalist work that 30 years after its premiere is still hypnotizing the public. The way she summarizes the idea of a play [Alonso Alegrías' 1969 play of the same name] in 20 minutes of dance is a feat of creative inspiration. Acosta Danza rescued her from oblivion and this piece has become one of the most applauded by the public and critics.
What is the most difficult aspect of this new enterprise you've taken on?
It is difficult to create a style from diversity and make everyone understand, fall in love with my dream and follow me. I think we are achieving it.
- Carlos Acosta — People — Royal Opera House ›
- Carlos Acosta's Cuban company makes its London debut ›
- Acosta Danza: Debut | New York City Center ›
- To Be a Star Carlos Acosta Had to Leave Cuba. Maybe His Dancers ... ›
- Carlos Acosta Dance Centre | Carlos Acosta International Dance ... ›
- Acosta Danza | Home ›
Pain is an inevitable part of a dancing life and dancers have a high tolerance for it, according to Sean Gallagher, a New York physical therapist whose practice includes many professional performers. "So when dancers complain, it really means something," he says.
But women and men experience pain differently, and tend to be treated for it differently as well. Female dancers need to understand those differences before they go to a doctor, so they can make sure they get treated promptly and effectively.
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
Ever wonder why some dancers' port de bras appears to be disconnected from their body? It typically comes down to how they stabilize their shoulder blades, says Marimba Gold-Watts, Pilates instructor to dancers like Robert Fairchild.
"Dancers often hear the cue to pull down on their latissimus,"—the biggest muscle in the back—"which doesn't allow the shoulder blades to lie flat," she says. "It makes the bottom tips of the shoulder blades wing, or flare out, off the rib cage."
Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.
But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.
A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.
Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.
Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.
"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."
New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.
Who says you need fancy equipment to make a festival-worthy dance film? Right now, two New York City–based dance film festivals are calling for aspiring filmmakers to show their stuff—and you don't need anything more cumbersome than a smartphone to get in on the action.
Here's everything you need to know about how to submit: