My Heart has Always Been in Cuba

The famous dancer and choreographer Carlos Acosta gives an interview about his own ballet company, which will be officially launched next April 8

By: José Luis Estrada Betancourt


2016-03-15 | 14:45:58 EST
Carlos AcostaCarlos Acosta Photo: raul pupoZoom
The time for seeing on the stage another of the great dreams of the prominent ballet dancer Carlos Acosta has finally become true: that of creating his own ballet company in Cuba. The company will be named Acosta Danza and it will be officially launched next April 8, when the first season of this company begins at the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. «It was natural that this happened this way because my Heart has always been in Cuba, and I think the Cuban people are aware of this. This’s why I continued insisting upon the idea of also founding a dance school, supported by our teaching methods which are well-recognized all over the world. This idea will allow us to support the careers of those dancers from all over the world who have limited economic resources, because this is a very expensive career. I see this as a legacy that Cuba, my country, offers to the world. So, I’m here, with my energy for the benefit of my Cuba. The most important fact is that I was immediately supported by the Ministry of Culture, by its Minister Julián González who has received these projects as his own projects. »
 —So, Acosta Danza will be in the stage in any moment...
—That’s a fact. Acosta Danza will appear in the middle of the Cuban dancing panorama, which is quite rich, as a complement of that what already exists. Acosta Danza is arriving as another alternative, with another flavor, because the company joins the classic and contemporary lines, and at the same time, it’s open to learn from each other. I’m very respectful about the achievements reached by the companies before us; but I also want to contribute, to achieve a high technical and artistic level, so we needed to have good dancers, dancers of a good quality.   
«There were 12 dancers at the very beginning; however, I understand that my Carmen will be a significant piece within the repertoire, so I had to enlarge the number of dancers to 25. In this stage I have the right to use this production, which is very expensive, and I also want the Cuban audience to appreciate the point of view that I had when treating this classic work. »
 —It’s obvious that for choosing the dancers of your company you had no other choice but that of receiving members of companies that already exist, who have recently graduated, in your auditions ....  
—That’s true. However, I think I have been very respectful, I have analyzed carefully every step I have taken, and it has been consulted with the Ministry of Culture. I was never interested in creating a crisis. Auditions were promoted from mouth to mouth, because it hadn’t received much publicity. I never see a problem in the creation of a dance company because Cuba is the country of the art, of the dance. There are a lot of dancers in Cuba. And Cuba has a system that is constantly training great dancers, world class dancers, and there are some of them who go away looking for other ways. I tell you sincerely that there are many reasons for rejoicing. I have come back to my country to help.
«As I already explained to you, I’m proposing a modern line. A dancer who summarizes both stiles: the classical and contemporary styles. The philosophy of my life will be behind this company. Of course, Acosta Danza will benefit from the contacts I have cultivated during my career, and this will also contribute to establish the bridges that make stronger the links for Cuba with the world. To make it possible for Cuba to become a more transnational country, a more cosmopolitan country, and that Cuba continues being an art potency. And I like that people will be focused on this. I like that Cuba could also be proud of the Acosta Danza; that everybody could be proud, and this has been my intention. »
—It’s said that the auditions were difficult, that you chose the 25 first dancers who show potential...
 —This is a process that will take some years to bear fruit, to allow the consolidation of my working team, to have everything fitting well, so that the company can grow up. We have had only three or four months working with the repertoire, however, I know there are a lot of expectations. Definitely, the National Ballet of Cuba and the Contemporary Dance of Cuba didn’t became what they are at present in just one night. It has been a 50-year process of hard work, of establishing the methodology, the guidelines to be followed. However, in the new launch, we will show the evidence of the effort made, of the professionalism that the company has already reached, features that will be increased as time passes by.
«The repertoire is very ambitious in comparison to the little time since the creation of the company that has two programs: one contemporary and the other classical, which will gives an idea of spectrum that will be characterized by the company, we wait to see the works the company will have, which we hope will also be its iconic works, those for which it will be distinguished everywhere. But we are not magicians, to achieve a high level, as I intend to, and form a very demanding repertoire, we will require time; much, much work and perseverance. It is the only way to achieve it.
I must also say that those who will soon be on the stage are not dancers of the Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera and the Bolshoi, some of the boys and girls we chose, coming from the classical, are no more than 18, 20 years old, are not first dancers, and who have not even faced roles of soloists or integrated a dance troupe, but yes: all have enormous potential, which will manifest gradually. But miracles cannot exist. Ah, we should see them within three years, if they continue working this way. The representatives of contemporary dance are something else: super dancers. On the stage the experience they have will be evident, but my goal is to later have, of course, parity. Yes, I am excited, and I am convinced that we will make Danza Acosta a frontline company. "
You trust in the future ...
No, I trust in the present. And that tomorrow will be much more divine. But today I have the certainty that we will do a good job. Because we are trying for the shows that Acosta Dance carry on stage are always accompanied by live music performed by a large orchestra; containing innovative choreography, accompanied by productions up to that of the Royal Ballet. We hope the debut will be attended by various promoters from around the world. That is not important only for the company but for Cuba, economically and artistically. Hence my insistence that there are many reasons to be happy with this birth. I would love my people live this joy with me.
-With the same links you've had with renowned choreographers, I guess that is another line that you will develop in the company ... Shall some work with you?
I do not want to put forward too many things, because we are organizing a press conference, but in the program that the company will debut this April will appear very new works signed by choreographers who today have a very high profile, who already speak to me with enthusiasm of future collaborations that will sustain the project, creations that will be especially conceived for Acosta Danza.
-Many still wonder why you withdrew from the classical if you are in such good form ...
Look, I suddenly found that my co-generation was beginning to retire: Tamara Rojo, my regular partner in these 17 years in the Royal Ballet, was preparing to assume leadership of the English National Ballet, then it was the turn of Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg, Leanne Benjamin, Mara Galeazzi ... in the course of two years I was left alone. Suddenly you start feeling like a stranger when you walk into your ballet class and check that everything changed, you do cannot find anyone to share memories, experiences ... It's so weird ... That happened to me. 
"But as I made the habit of starting to predict in advance what might happen in two or three years to come, I sat down with the director of the Royal Ballet, Kevin O'Hare, to know how the future would unfold in the seasons until 2016, it became clear that while 2013 and 2014 would be very intense, 2015 and 2016 would not be like them, which eventually gave me time to take the decision. At 42 years, with an important career behind me, you can no longer afford to repeat yourself, to fall apart. Those who know me know that I am one of those people who need constant stimuli to continue evolving, learning.

"I do very well the challenges, experiments. So I created my version of Don Quixote, which in 2014 succeeded in the US, a success which was unprecedented in the history of the Royal Ballet. Those were a spectacular eight consecutive performances, they stood up and cheered my show at the Auditorium Theatre, Chicago; at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, regardless of the figures that were in the headlines roles ...

"Then I wanted to give my variation of Carmen to the Royal, a great title. It was a very ambitious project, because I set myself to direct this show, with a live orchestra to interpret the arrangement of Martin Yates; choirs, three casts ... and also dance it. It ended up being very stressful, but I felt satisfied because I think I gave a fresh, different setting.

"In short, at this time I've been designing my retirement from classical, although many people did not understand my reasons in principle, because I continue to look the same. Sure, it costs me more, because I am 42 years old. Well, the truth is that there are not many 25 olds who achieve this level ... (smiles). And I do not want my fans to tell me: "Every time I see you I suffer tremendously when I remember who you were and what you have become" (more eager smiles). "  

Translated by ESTI 

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