Carlos Acosta Photo Johan Persson

Carlos Acosta
Photo Johan Persson

Carlos Acosta: A Classical Selection
London Coliseum
December 8, 2015

Maggie Foyer

As ballet superstar, Carlos Acosta, prepares to move on to new endeavours these final performances leave memories to treasure. This programme was a chance for Acosta and friends to dance their favourite pieces not at their usual home, Covent Garden, but at the Coliseum, London’s best ballet theatre. Gala programmes can suffer from a lack of connecting tissue but Acosta cleverly themed the evening by inserting an onstage/offstage interlude. Between items, the rear curtain rises to show the dancers off task, stretching out, donning woollies and chatting; a neat bit of theatricality that worked well in professional hands.

The first half closed on an old favourite, the Diana and Actaeon pas de deux. Beloved of dance competitions where rising stars turn ballet steps into death-defying feats, it was a treat to see it in the hands of these two greats. Acosta proved, at 42, that his superb technique can carry him through the toughest of variations. His charm has never been more potent, his pirouettes perfectly on balance, and he can still hack an aerial flip. His partner, Marianela Núñez, loving every minute, flirted her way shamelessly through the duet then went on to nail each arabesque brilliantly, soar through the air in her jetés and pirouette in a dizzying blaze. If this is the last time we get to see these two dance together – what an exit line it was.

Another successful choice was the iconic Agon pas de deux. Acosta partnered Zenaida Yanowsky – a dancer whose anatomy suits Balanchine’s geometry so precisely – catching the mood and working in dynamic synchronicity. This was his night and he also couldn’t resist attacking Ben Van Cauwenbergh’s gala favourite, Les Bourgeois, making the disreputable palatable with a generous dose of charm.

Yuhui Choe, wilful and featherlight, must be a contender for the Royal Ballet’s reigning Sylph. She was an absolute delight in Bournonville’s pas de deux with Valeri Hristov as the bewitched James. Hristov returned as a dashing Escamillo to Tierney Heap’s Carmen. Heap, a promising young artist at the Royal Ballet, stepped into the spotlight when chosen by Acosta as the eponymous heroine in his new Carmen. While that ballet proved that choreography is not Acosta’s strongest suit, the pair gave a passionate rendition of this duet, one of the best moments in the ballet. Less successful was the Farewell pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams, where she was paired with Thiago Soares in a surfeit of breathless passion.

I was delighted with the inclusion of Anna Rose O’Sullivan, who came to public attention as a prize winning graduate from The Royal Ballet School. She has been working away in the corps for several years but elevated into the company of Acosta and friends she seemed quite at home. She has a finely honed technique and performs with easy self-assurance. In Ben Stevenson’s End of Time, with Nehemiah Kish giving sensitive support, she presented a different dimension: offering in neo-classical simplicity, a satisfying depth of expression, understated and tingling with real emotion.

Majisimo from Cuban choreographer, Georges Garcia, assembled the talent in a lively finale in Spanish style. There was a low key finish, as dancer moved to the back of the stage, stepping out of their costumes and picking up tog bags to wander off; a reluctant Acosta, the last to leave. However this did nothing to dampen the rapturous applause and cheers for this greatly loved artist who will be sorely missed.