Acosta, Sadler’s Wells, London

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It is difficult to know what to make of this bizarre evening. Billed as Carlos Acosta with guest artists from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, it is indeed that, and precious little else save three small and horrid dance scenas, miserably choreographed by Alberto Mendez and, to close an evening short to a point beyond dwarfishness, the Corsaire duet given with a great deal of familiar bravura by Acosta and Viengsay Valdes.

The Sadler’s Wells marketing promised “a breathtaking experience not to be missed”, but frankly I wouldn’t buy a used skateboard (let alone a car) from people who could say that about this cheese-paring and amateurish show. My breath was certainly taken away – by the witless framing of the programme, which offers us a young woman and her lover who disagree about her affection for reading. He leaves, she takes to her bed, which takes (literally) to the skies as she is hoisted above the
stage while damnable bits of choreography hit us in the solar plexus.

There are – dear Heaven! – two dolls who behave dollishly to saccharine tunes. There is a jungly encounter between the God of War and the Goddess of the River, which has escaped from some dimly ethnic cabaret, with an accompaniment from a stratospherically keening soprano who may be very popular with bats but hurt my eardrums.

There is – save the mark! – a trio in which two danseuses flail and cut variously crude and obvious capers in the company of a danseur no less ready to fall about. (Cue merry laughter from the audience.) The Trocks would disdain such vulgarity – and show sharper manners and technique.

Thus far, so frightful. No scenery save brief views of some hateful wallpaper. Music raging from a quartet in the pit, or in a gimcrack recording for the comic trio. Le Corsaire at least boasted a decent soundtrack and a full-throated performance from Acosta and the delightful Viengsay Valdes.

But this was, I felt, in all other things a programme insolent in its threadbare means, and unacceptable. Enthusiastic audience. Sold out houses. I note that Acosta is scheduled for a season next spring at the Coliseum “with guest artists from the Royal Ballet”. Someone had better have a thought to quality and quantity.
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