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San Francisco Ballet in class during World Ballet Day 2016. Photo Courtesy SFB.

Here at Pointe, every day feels like World Ballet Day, though the official 2018 event took place on Tuesday. While WBD is a thrill for any bunhead, it can also be overwhelming. How are you supposed to sit in front of your computer all day when you have class and rehearsal and work and a life? We get it, and we're here to help.

To give you a chance to catch up, we've rounded up WBD videos from 26 companies. So grab some popcorn, a backlog of pointe shoes to sew, and settle in. If you start watching now, you might just be done in time for WBD 2019.

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Yuli looks like the ballet biopic of our dreams. Screenshot via YouTube

We admit it. We're picky about dance movies. They don't always represent our beloved art form accurately, or use real dancers to play the main roles.

But we just watched the first trailer for the new Carlos Acosta biopic, Yuli, and we're kinda speechless:

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Ballet Stars
Jim Caldwell, Courtesy of Houston Ballet

The '90s were an exciting time at Houston Ballet. Lauren Anderson, who became Houston's first AfricanAmerican principal dancer in 1990, reigned as its queen of virtuosic technique; a few years later, a young Cuban wonder named Carlos Acosta joined the company and became one of her regular partners. The results were nothing less than explosive, as this clip of their Don Quixote pas de deux proves. Dancing at a brisk pace, they imbue the choreography with high-flying allégro, crisp energy and charismatic flair. Within a minute Acosta has Anderson in an overhead press (no biggie!). Later, she attacks her pirouettes with pointed musicality, slicing the air with a dramatic grand ronds de jambe.

In a recent interview with Pointe, Anderson talked about their partnership. "It was a little bit of a battle at first because he's strong and I'm strong," she said, adding that she had already been an established principal when Acosta, who is eight years younger than Anderson, joined the company. "But we found that there was chemistry there. And what was fun was that we were both heavy on the technique side, so we'd compete a bit onstage, especially when we'd get to the coda. As we'd each come out for our solos, we'd try to kick it up a notch." It's easy to see how much fun they're having here. Happy #TBT!

Ballet Stars
Photo by Todd Spoth, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

When I was a teenager, Lauren Anderson was my generation's Misty Copeland. The former Houston Ballet star made history as the company's first African American principal ballerina in 1990, and her partnership with Carlos Acosta thrilled audiences before he left Houston for The Royal Ballet. Since her retirement in 2006, she's had her hands full as Houston Ballet's program manager of community engagement—yet she still finds time to teach master classes around the world. On April 8­–12, Anderson will be headlining Debbie Allen Dance Academy's "DADA On Pointe" Ballet Intensive, including an exclusive talk-back with Allen on April 8. Anderson spoke with Pointe about the impact the Fame star had on her career, and how she's tried to pay it forward since.

Have you worked with Debbie Allen in the past?

Debbie Allen and I have a long history—she's from Houston. I've never taught for her Academy in L.A., but we've popped up in each other's lives throughout our careers. She was so influential on me when I was younger, starting with Fame—I'd watch it every Saturday afternoon. She was also the first African American student in the Houston Ballet Academy. She and I share the vision that every child should have high quality dance education, period. I am so excited about collaborating—we've been trying to do this for a while.

When you're teaching a master class, what do you focus on?

Definitely musicality, relaxation and control. A master class is a one shot deal—you've got an hour and half, and as a teacher you think, I'm there to change their life in some way or another, to inspire them. My idea in the studio, which I got from my mentor Ben Stevenson, is to create an atmosphere that lets the student know that the possibilities are endless within the confines of classical technique. Each class is different, but by the second or third combination I know what the theme of the day is going to be. My job is to make that theme fit into the combinations that I'm giving.

Anderson in Don Quixote. Photo by Drew Donovan, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Your pointe shoes are on permanent display at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. How does that make you feel?

What's cool about it is that my shoes are in a display case along with Dance Theatre of Harlem. My mom took me to see DTH when I was nine. All of a sudden I saw a black dancer go across the stage—and then I saw another one. And I looked at my mother and I said, “Mom! There's a whole stage full of them!" I hadn't seen a black ballerina until then. I knew I didn't look like anyone in my class, but at that point I thought, I can do this.

The influence that company has had on my life is amazing. Virginia Johnson was a ballerina I looked up to. So it's humbling that I'm in the same case with Arthur Mitchell's bronzed ballet shoes and Virginia Johnson's Giselle costume. When I saw my shoes next to them I was overwhelmed with joy. To even think that I'm on the same level—it's still surreal to me.

There's been a lot of attention in recent years about the lack of diversity in classical ballet. Are things starting to get better?

Things are getting different. Of course things are better—we had African American dancers back in the '50s that had to pass for white to get jobs, for instance. But it's still a European art form and there are still people who think the corps de ballet needs to be like the Rockettes. But things are changing, because more and more people are beige. Evolution is going to take over and everyone will be beige soon. That sounds flippant, but it's true. There's more opportunity for people of any nationality or color, but there's also more awareness, especially with social media. We see things as they happen—we watched Misty Copeland's rise unfold in real time! We've had black ballerinas forever, but now they're just more visible, which is good because they're inspiring more kids to dance.

Anderson with Misty Copeland after her New York debut of Swan Lake. Photo by Gene Schiavone, via Pinterest.

You presented Misty Copeland with flowers during her Swan Lake debut in New York City. Did she contact you beforehand?

She did. I got a call from her manager who extended the invitation—she discussed my giving her flowers and I said I would be honored! And what's neat is that this goes full circle to Debbie Allen. Every time Houston Ballet was in Washington performing at the Kennedy Center, Debbie was at the show (she lived there at the time). I remember we were performing Serenade and I was the Russian girl. Afterwards there was a party and Debbie was there. She came up to me and I was just floored. I said, “It's an honor to meet you! I've wanted to be you all my life!" And she took my shoulders and said, “No, honey—we all wanted to be you." I didn't get it then, but I did later—it was the ballet thing. So I will traipse around America to see dancers—we gotta support our babies! Those mentorship moments are so important. You never know who you're going to affect and how you're going to inspire them.

What was the biggest lesson you learned during your career that you try to pass on to younger generations?

You have to be honest with your weaknesses, you have to be honest with your strengths, and you have to figure out, in the muck and mire of being so young, who you are in the role. We're constantly comparing ourselves to other dancers. But you gotta be real. There's always going to be someone out there better than you. But it's your part, and when you can bring your realness to the technique? There's nothing like it!

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Since 2000, megastars and budding ballet celebrities alike have graced the covers of Pointe. Take a walk with us down memory lane as we recall some of the biggest names from some of our earliest issues. Whether they continue to perform or have transitioned to a position at the front of the studio, these stars have real staying power.

Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky (May/June 2001)

Then: Pegged as "Ballet's Hottest Couple" on our cover, the duo had recently joined American Ballet Theatre as principals.

Now: Though both have retired from ABT, they run a summer intensive in New York City, give limited performances as guest artists and have even designed items, like ballet booties, for Bloch. Dvorovenko also had a major role in the Starz's ballet drama "Flesh and Bone."

Svetlana Zakharova (July/August 2001)

Then: Zakharova was a young principal with the Mariinsky Ballet.

Now: She's still tantalizing audiences with her breathtaking performances of ballets like Swan Lake—but with the Bolshoi Ballet. Last year, Zakharova also became a guest artist with Bavarian State Ballet.

Tamara Rojo (November/December 2001)

Then: The Spanish dancer was a leading performer with The Royal Ballet.

Now: If someone can do it all, it's Rojo. She's currently balancing dual roles at English National Ballet as artistic director and principal dancer. Pointe even named her performance with Irek Mukhamedov in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Broken Wings one of the Standouts of 2016.

Misty Copeland (February/March 2002)

Then: Way before Misty Copeland became a household name, she scored her first Pointe cover as a promising member of ABT's corps.

Now: As ABT's first female African American principal, she's an all-around ballet superhero. Copeland has catapulted ballet into the mainstream and has championed issues like having a positive body image and diversity in dance.

Jenifer Ringer (April/May 2002)

Then: a leading principal at New York City Ballet

Now: Ringer traded East Coast for West when she became the director of the Colburn Dance Academy in L.A. If you're not one of her lucky students, you can read about her perspective in her memoir, Dancing Through It: My Journey in Ballet. And, just last year, she also spoke to Pointe about how dancers can foster confidence.

Carlos Acosta (August/September 2002)

Then: The international ballet star had loads of fans at The Royal Ballet, but Big Apple audiences were also getting acquainted with him since he'd recently appeared as a guest with ABT.

Now: He's busy leading his own company, Acosta Danza, in his native Cuba.

Paloma Herrera (December 2002/January 2003)

Then: The Argentinian dancer was wowing New York audiences as a principal at ABT.

Now: Earlier this month, Herrera became artistic director of Teatro Colón's ballet company in Buenos Aires. We can't wait to see what she does in her new position.

Ethan Stiefel (February/March 2003)

Then: Though he launched his professional career with NYCB, Stiefel was an ABT principal by the time he appeared on our cover.

Now: Stiefel had a short stint as artistic director of Royal New Zealand Ballet from 2011 to 2014, but now, he's focusing on choreographing. His first major choreographic commission will premiere in May at The Washington Ballet.

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

News
Leticia Oliveira and Carl Coomer. Photo by Steven Visneau, Courtesy Texas Ballet Theater.

Carlos Acosta's Carmen, a co-production with London's Royal Ballet, Australia's Queensland Ballet and Texas Ballet Theater, arrives in Dallas, September 16–18, and in Fort Worth, October 7–9.

TBT artistic director Ben Stevenson met Acosta when the international star was only 18 years old. As Houston Ballet's then artistic director, Stevenson nurtured Acosta's outsized talent, helping him rise to prominence during his six years dancing with the company. The two have remained connected throughout the years.

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Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta in Manon. Photo via Pinterest.

Former Royal Ballet principals Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta are notably one of the best couples to perform together. In this clip of Manon, it’s clear that Rojo and Acosta have an unadulterated chemistry, even with the pas de deux’s technically exhaustive demands.

Like Romeo and Juliet, Manon tells the story of star-crossed lovers. Though Manon and Des Grieux are fated from the start, this variation captures their love for each other through stolen glances and heartfelt embraces. Acosta showcases Rojo in every promenade and lift, underscoring his own strength and grace. From the opening saut de chat at 0:10 to the soutenu at 1:08, there is an implicit assuredness between them that makes their performance particularly special.

It’s no surprise that both dancers have continued to be leading lights in the dance world. In 2012, Rojo was appointed artistic director of the English National Ballet where she is also its lead principal dancer. Acosta, the first black dancer to become a principal with the Royal Ballet, is following suit. This October, he finishes his A Classical Farewell tour at the Royal Albert Hall before heading back to Cuba to direct his new company, Acosta Danza.

Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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For this #MotivationMonday, we mined the “Reverence” section of Pointe’s back issues. Read on for inspiration from some of your favorite dancers. This years-old advice is timeless!

Photo by Jack Devant via JackDevant.com.

“Being a professional is not an easy life. Students need to ask themselves if they really want to do that, because it takes up your whole life. But for me, it still is the best profession!”

-Polina Semionova, Staatsballett Berlin (February/March 2007)

Photo via the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation.

“Persevere and work harder every day; do extra hours if need be.”

-Carlos Acosta, Royal Ballet (June/July 2008)

Kotchetkova with Tiit Helimets in Yuri Possokhov's Swimmer. Photo by Erik Tomasson via Bachtrack.

“A walk in the mountains, a good movie, a great conversation. You can find inspiration all around you.”

-Maria Kochetkova, San Francisco Ballet (June/July 2009)

Kistler with Jared Angle. Photo by Paul Kolnik via Los Angeles Times.

“If you’re passionate and you love it, continue. If you’re halfway, there are so many other wonderful things out there to do. I go back to what Mr. Balanchine said: You have to be willing to die for it. It cannot be a maybe.”

-Darci Kistler, New York City Ballet (June/July 2010)

With Guillaume Côté. Photo by David Cooper via Times Union.

“It’s more than just dancing at a higher level. You have to remember it’s not only about you, even if you’re in the spotlight. You must share yourself with the whole company. You gather that energy so they’re involved with you, so there’s a dialogue. Then it becomes more real and exciting for the audience.”

-Xiao Nan Yu, National Ballet of Canada (June/July 2011)

Photo by Valeria Komissarova via Pinterest.

“Physically speaking, I don’t think I was talented. It was more about work every day. Work, more work and yet more work. There’s no upper limit—you can always go further.”

-Ekaterina Kondaurova, Mariinsky Ballet (December 2013/January 2014)

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

News

Ever since diplomatic relations were reestablished between Cuba and the U.S. back in 2014, people have been wondering what increased cultural exchange might mean for Cuban ballet. This week, it was announced that Catherine Conley, a dancer from Chicago's Ruth Page Center for the Arts, was invited to train at Cuban National Ballet School. The eighteen-year-old will start studying full time under the school's director, Ramona de Saa, this summer after she graduates from high school.

Catherine Conley, photo by Cheryl Mann

Cuban National Ballet School is one of the largest and most esteemed classical ballet schools in the world, and has produced dance legends from Carlos Acosta to José Manuel Carreño. But though U.S. dancers have participated in workshops and festivals at the school, long-term opportunities for exchange and training have been extremely limited.

Conley with Ramona de Saa, photo by Anthony Robert La Penna

A Michigan native, Conley has trained at the Ruth Page Center for more than 10 years, and attended summer intensives at The Royal Ballet, Boston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. She caught de Saa's eye while participating in a groundbreaking exchange program between Cuban National Ballet School and Ruth Page Center that started in 2015. The program, called “Chicago Y Cuba: The International Dance Experience,” featured joint classes and performances in Havana and Chicago.

Training in Cuba is the opportunity of a lifetime for Conley, and her experience is another sign of changing circumstances and increased opportunities for collaboration. We'll be keeping our eyes on the young dancer as she embarks on this adventure.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

News

(photo by Ian Gavan, courtesy ROH)

After 17 years at The Royal Ballet, Carlos Acosta is ready to begin his next chapter. The principal dancer retired from the company last night after performing in his new production of Carmen, which he choreographed and starred in. According to The Telegraph, after receiving a 20-minute standing ovation last night, Acosta offered a few words of advice for the next generation of dancers. “Allow yourself to make mistakes, there is no such thing as failure," he said. "Be curious and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy because one day you will blink and realize that 70 years have gone by.”

Acosta has been captivating audiences worldwide ever since he left his native Havana and won gold at the 1990 Prix de Lausanne. He danced with Houston Ballet and English National Ballet before joining the Royal. He's also published two books (his autobiography, and a novel called Pig's Foot) and produced his own shows (the most recent, Cubanía, premiered at the Royal over the summer).

So, what's next? Acosta plans to start a company of his own in Cuba, where he'll focus on developing new work that has a uniquely Cuban aesthetic, and explore more contemporary styles. He's also working to rebuild the ballet school at Havana's National Art School. As Cuba becomes more open to the influence of the outside world, he'll play a role in shaping the way dance is affected.

Luckily for us, many of his dazzling performances have been captured on film. If you're already missing seeing him onstage, here he is as Franz in The Royal Ballet’s 2000 production of Coppélia:

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

News

Ballerinas are ready subjects for blockbusting movies and bestselling biographies: Now, male dancers, too, are having a moment—one that we hope sparks a trend. In his new photography book, Les Danseurs, Matthew Brookes focuses his lens on men of the Paris Opéra Ballet. In powerfully composed black and white photos, Brookes highlights the strength of male dancers, but also a vulnerability and artistry that’s often overshadowed by luminous images of swans and sleeping beauties. And, in November, The Royal Ballet and Oberon Books will release a photography book depicting the career of one of the ballet world’s most virtuosic male stars, Carlos Acosta.

 

Boys may face less competition within the ballet world, but they face far more criticism from onlookers ready to stigmatize men in tights. (Check out American Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet star David Hallberg’s personal essay in Pointe’s last December/January issue). These photography collections are sure to place male dancers in the positive spotlight they deserve!

Ballet Stars

Carlos Acosta. The name is almost synonymous with great male dancing, calling up an image of a performer whose combination of athletic dynamism, refined classicism and onstage magnetism have made him a superstar from just about the start of his career. Born and raised in Cuba, he began performing at 18 with English National Ballet in London. He moved to Houston Ballet in 1993, joined The Royal Ballet as a principal in 1998 and was a regular guest artist at American Ballet Theatre (among other companies) for several years. Despite the acclaim that has consistently come his way, Acosta hasn’t ever rested on his laurels. Like Nureyev and Baryshnikov, he is a star capable of drawing audiences to any performance bearing his name, and over the last decade, he has presented regular seasons of his own programs in London and abroad. These have ranged from Cuban-themed populist shows to adventurous contemporary work featuring film and experimental choreography, but Acosta’s own charismatic personality is always at their heart. He remains a favorite of audiences at The Royal Ballet, where he is staging his own production of Don Quixote, which runs from September 30 through November 6 at the Royal Opera House. After a long day of rehearsal, he talked to Pointe about the new production, what Don Quixote means to him, Cuba and lots more.

How did the idea of staging Don Quixote for The Royal Ballet come about?

Every classical ballet company should have a Don Quixote, but for some reason The Royal Ballet hasn’t had a production for more than 10 years. We have a lot of youngsters who really want to try out their technical skills—and that’s the ballet to do it. People practice wild jumps in class, but there’s nowhere to do that onstage, no place for a really free kind of dancing.

When Kevin O’Hare was in line for director here, he heard that I had said something about this, and he told me, “If I get the job, we should make it happen.” He got the job—and I took the challenge.

Have you ever staged a ballet before?
No! But I have a lot of curiosity about new experiences. It is the natural course for an artist to keep trying things, not to keep repeating things—that is artistic death. Baryshnikov is what an artist should be, adapting and evolving all the time.

You have been closely identified with Don Quixote as a dancer.

I’ve always loved it. I won the Prix de Lausanne with the solo at 16, and it’s the ballet I have performed the most—at American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opéra, Stuttgart, Cuba, Chile, The Royal. It has so many great characters, and so much dancing for the corps. And it’s just so much fun.

Are you particularly influenced by any one version?

Ben Stevenson created a version in Houston for me in 1995, and perhaps because it was made on me, it is the one I really like. He has a tremendous sense of humor, particularly in the pantomime. I am keeping quite a lot from that production, including the libretto and structure.

How much original choreography have you introduced?

A lot, but it’s all in a dialogue with Petipa; I’m not trying to be clever, to put it in leather jeans and be “contemporary.” I’ve kept pretty much the same vocabulary, using the tambourines, the seguidilla, the fans, the toreadors, the capes. But I’ve tried to ease the rigidity of the classicism. The ballet can look dated; it was created in the 1800s. Today we have a different humor and I want people to see the personalities, not the stereotypes.

How have you done that?

Mostly through the acting. I want the dancers to have real conversations, people shouting in the crowds, more naturalistic behavior. I keep telling the dancers, we are people onstage. I want them to relax, to walk normally.

What has the process been like?
Very challenging. The company splits its time between so many productions, and I needed to start quite early. It’s hard for them to rehearse for a premiere a year ahead of time, but I needed to have a sense of who could do it, and whether what I choreographed worked outside of my head!

Is there any Cuban influence in the ballet?
Not specifically, although of course I am the product of what I learned in Cuba. In the final pas de deux, for example, I like the Cuban version when they finish the first section with Basilio’s back to the audience, and Kitri facing forward. There is something sexy about it, seeing just his back and the profile. I want that in the ballet, and also the exuberance. You want to jump as high as you can jump, and no one is going to tell you not to.

Are you suggesting that the English style is more restrained?
A lot of English choreography, like Kenneth MacMillan’s, is more personal and intimate. That quality can bring warmth to Don Q, and I think the ballet also requires that. This company does the pantomime parts so well because they have that storytelling tradition in their DNA.

What has it been like to direct your colleagues?

I am very hands-on, but I depend a lot on everyone working with me, too. I don’t always have the answers—I haven’t set 10 ballets before. I’m learning as well.

You have written a novel that’s out this month, you just had a season at the London Coliseum and helped recreate an arts center in Havana. And you are still dancing. Why take on staging a full-length ballet, too?

I like to keep testing my limits. It gives me creative fuel. It’s all a lot of work, but it helps me to stay at the level I need to be. I’ve always been a worker.

When Carlos Acosta sees me backstage, he walks toward me smiling, his arms open wide. We met briefly the night before at a reception, but he embraces me and kisses me on both cheeks like we’re old friends. It’s 11:15 am one morning in mid-March, and he’s warming up onstage, preparing for the 11:30 class. He rose early. After walking the grounds of his host, he had fruit for breakfast and read, enjoying the Texas sun. “It was such a beautiful morning,” he says.

Acosta is in Fort Worth to dance Le Corsaire Pas de Deux with the National Ballet of China’s Zhang Jian at Bass Hall. He’s danced with her before. This time, it’s part of a Texas Ballet Theater mixed-rep program called Stars and Premieres, with a three-performance run. Tomorrow is opening night, and he’s only been in town a few days.

Acosta began dancing at age 9 at the National Ballet School of Cuba. Even before graduating in 1991, he began touring and guesting worldwide. In 1993, he met Ben Stevenson, then–artistic director of Houston Ballet, who currently heads TBT. Stevenson invited Acosta to join Houston Ballet as a principal, and Acosta remained there for five years.

Acosta credits Stevenson for paving the way for his success, including being a principal at The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, as well as performing all over the world, appearing on British television and in two films, and receiving numerous awards.

With Acosta spending most of his time dancing in London, New York and Paris, it may seem odd that he’d come to Fort Worth to dance one short piece for three nights. Put that question to Acosta and his answer is simple and immediate: “There is something called appreciation,” he says. “I feel very grateful to Ben. He means a lot to me. This is a way to pay him back for what he’s done for me.”

Preparing for class, Acosta stretches alongside the other dancers. He pounds his thighs with his fists and then sits, crossing his legs to rub his feet. Then he stands to stretch his legs on the barre.

His stature is striking; his dark skin and wild, curly hair add to his allure. He’s wholly aware of his surroundings and completely rapt in what he’s doing, sometimes stopping to smile at me between exercises as I sit on the apron of the stage; other times he’s lost in the combinations.

By 12:10 pm, the class moves on to center work. Acosta loosens his spine, collapsing backward over a barre in the wings, chatting with the dancers. He returns to the stage with his group—turning, leaping, soaring through the space. In each combination, his speed, accuracy and technical skills are as grand as during any performance.

Class lasts only an hour, and because he’s not due back for the tech rehearsal until after 3, he suggests we grab lunch. “Something light, of course. Maybe a salad,” he says. We walk to a restaurant and get a table outside.

Latin music plays, and Acosta dances in his chair. “We could dance Corsaire to this,” he jokes. We talk about his career, about how people recognize him in New York, about his buying a home in London. “The realtor knew more about me than me,” he says. “There were lots of bids on the house, but I got it because the owner’s wife is a ballet fan.” He shakes his head, laughing.

The conversation turns to his age, and he grins. “I’m 34. I’m a dinosaur.”

“How could you possibly say that?” I ask.

“You should have seen me this morning, limping and shuffling to the bathroom,” he teases. “I’m becoming a fossil. I don’t know how much longer I can do all these shows and tours.”

Acosta muses about wanting a family of his own one day, of how much he is enjoying this time in his career, of how he values all that he has. “I have freedom. And freedom is the most precious thing.”

As for his future plans, he says he’s already writing his autobiography. After that? “It all depends, because I want to enjoy my children,” he says, speaking of the ones he hopes to have one day. “I know I can do many things. I don’t see myself in a ballet classroom teaching.”

He talks about Cuba. His voice full of love and respect—for the country and its people. “In Cuba, it’s all about human contact. Here, it’s all computers, no connection. In [London], I don’t even know my neighbors, and I’ve been there five years. If we don’t pay attention, we’re all going to be robots,” he says. “In the end, that’s what life should be all about—sharing experiences.”

Growing up in the barrio and leaving school at an early age provided Acosta with little formal education. His father enrolled him in ballet school to keep him out of trouble. “I started reading because I wanted to tell my story,” he says. “I wasn’t very good at school. I got kicked out, and I regret it. I didn’t know anything about anything. Someone once said, ‘You can’t be a doctor if you only know medicine.’ Same applies. I feel more free knowing about more than just ballet.”

At 3:20, after spending only a few moments warming up in the wings, Acosta’s onstage for the tech rehearsal. It’s primarily for lights, cues and staging, so Acosta and Zhang mark much of the choreography—a relief, as an ongoing injury in his foot and ankle are hurting him badly.

He’s not due onstage again until after 8 pm for the evening’s dress rehearsal. He heads to his dressing room to ice his injury. He then heads for his host’s home to read and nap. His focus onstage demands time for meditation off of it.

It’s an odd day for Acosta, filled more with waiting than dancing. The one piece he’s performing is only nine minutes long, but Acosta doesn’t appear to mind. He seems happy for the ease with which the day is unfolding.

At 7:25, Acosta is in costume backstage, warming up at the barre. Thirty minutes later, he returns to his dressing room for one final look in the mirror. He details Corsaire for me, explaining the plot and his role as slave. He acts out the scene, gesturing with graceful bows and sweeping arms. His eyes are pleading, and his movements are as dramatic as any stage performance.

He returns to the wings at 8:12. Minutes later he’s onstage, dancing full out at this dress rehearsal for the next three nights’ performances. His colleagues in the wings stop to watch. Their faces register awe. The audience for the rehearsal is small, just company members and press photographers, but Acosta’s performance draws cheers and applause that belie the tiny number of occupied seats.

What seems like an instant later, Acosta is rehearsing his bows. He stops to mark a few steps onstage and speaks to the pianist about the tempo of the piece. Then he dashes into his dressing room to gather his things. Second later he slips out, kisses me on both checks, and says, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

Twenty-four hours later, after watching his opening-night performance, I can see the sheer joy on his face. As I hear the audience clap and cheer and watch everyone rise to their feet, I can’t help but remember something Acosta said about the passing of Ibrahim Ferrer, a musician he greatly loved and admired: “When you live in someone else’s heart, that’s the best way to live.”

Jenny Block writes for a variety of regional and national publications. Her latest work appears in the new anthology It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters.

Finally, Covent Garden is expanding its popular big screen broadcasts to the U.S., and Royal Ballet fans will be able to get their fill of their favorite stars.

The series launches with a bang on October 16, when Carlos Acosta’s much-anticipated new Don Quixote is beamed onto movie screens around the country. It’s the first production staged for the Royal by the Cuban superstar, and he will dance Basil, long a signature role, opposite Royal principal Marianela Nuñez as Kitri. (Don’t miss Pointe’s exclusive interview with Acosta about the production in the upcoming October/November issue.) Future Royal broadcasts include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (November 19) and The Nutcracker (December 17). For details, visit www.fathomevents.com.

Mark your calendars: The Royal Ballet's cinema broadcast series will bring the company's Giselle to movie theaters across the U.S. next Monday night.

This installment is especially compelling because it features one of the Royal's hottest partnerships: Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta. Osipova's Giselle is electrifying on its own, with her ever-astounding jump making her a particularly unearthly Wili. But she and the heroic Acosta share a singular chemistry. He seems particularly tender toward Osipova, particularly eager to take care of her. (The Giselle performance to be aired next week was actually filmed live this weekend, and reviews of the pair in the ballet have been glowing.)

Click here for theater locations and more information about the broadcast.

Carlos Acosta’s name is synonymous with virtuosic and passionate performances. A principal with The Royal Ballet since 1998, Acosta soared onto the world stage in 1990 when he won the gold medal at Prix de Lausanne. With his powerful technique and Cuban charisma, he’s been stunning audiences ever since.

 

In this short clip from 2000, Acosta performs the role of Franz in The Royal Ballet’s production of Coppélia. Like many male solos in classical ballet, Franz’s variation is a showcase of challenging jumps and turns—which Acosta makes appear deceptively easy, radiating a calm smile during each pirouette and tour en l’air. In addition to his immaculate technical delivery, Acosta doesn’t skimp on transitional steps: his signature flair is present in every preparatory port de bras and mazurka.

 

The Royal Ballet’s 2015/2016 season will be Acosta’s last. He will choreograph and star in a new production of Carmen this fall, and after completing the season, Acosta plans to focus on contemporary work and writing (he already has two books published, a novel called Pig’s Foot and his remarkable rags-to-riches autobiography No Way Home). Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Carlos Acosta, a principal at The Royal Ballet and one of the most well-known dancers ever, will retire from the classical stage during the summer of 2016. However, he's already begun to lay his next plans: Running his own dance company.

Acosta told the London Evening Standard that he plans to split his time between the UK and his native Cuba, and will draw most of his dancers from Cuba. Acosta's show Cubanía (which will be performed at the Royal Opera House later this month) features dancers from the country's top contemporary company, Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, as well as the Ballet Nacional and several guest artists. It has served as a precursor to Acosta's larger vision—to showcase new work with a distinctly Cuban flair.

He has also been working to restore the ballet school at Havana's National Art School and hopes that structural work will be completed within three years.

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