April 26, 2018
Whether consciously or unconsciously, Carlos Acosta banished all standard associations with Cuban dance for his 2018 Acosta Danza season at New York City Center. We see only fleeting evidence of the Russian ballet training developed in his country under Alicia Alonso (immaculate split jumps), and no remnants of the libertine abandon, accented by maracas and hip-swirling, prior to Castro’s regime, that drew so many playboys with deep pockets to the island.
When Acosta appears in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s duet Mermaid, he seems more of a healer than a prince, more empathetic than regal. He carries his partner Marta Ortega, cradles her, and flips her gently over his back until her bare toes begin to twitch with delight. Dressed as an Everyman, with ordinary pants and shirt untucked, he dances with a soulful simplicity that makes one wonder whether this duet encapsulates what he hopes to accomplish for Cuba.
The program opens and closes with group pieces for his fine dancers, sandwiching three duets that all have enervation/union as central threads. Goyo Montero’s Alrededor no hay nada uses no music, only the narration of poems by Joaquin Sabina and Vinicius de Moraes, for his dramatic opening number. Montero’s intermittent lighting and costuming – women with bare legs and feet, men in black coats, both occasionally adding black bowler hats – adds a sinister quality of manipulation. Whatever tension pulls the group to face the audience and then each other in a tight circle dissolves with the jubilant announcement of Sabado – Saturday.
Marianela Boan’s duet El Cruce sobre el Niagara for Carlos Luis Blanco and Alejandro Silva, set to ethereal music of Olivier Messiaen begins with a slow diagonal crossing by a black man towards a white man curled in a ball in the downstage left corner. Yet, it seems to truly begin with its last image when the two men, essentially naked, seem to merge as one as they fade into the light upstage center.
Jorge Crecis’s Twelve closed the program with an apolitical romp, with the company throwing and catching plastic water bottles, as a game anyone can play. Charles Moulton’s Precision Ball Passing, originally made in 1979 for three dancers and revived recently for as many as seventy-two performers, certainly comes to mind.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers