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Carlos Acosta, Premieres, London Coliseum | reviews, news & interviews

Carlos Acosta, Premieres, London Coliseum

Carlos Acosta, Premieres, London Coliseum

When a star dancer tries to reinvent himself, it's tears before bedtime

Wet, wet, wet: Zenaida Yanowsky and Carlos Acosta in Simon Elliott's video for 'Premieres'Simon Elliott & Ahh...

Great stars get lost sometimes. Up there in outer space, ringed with adulation, when they get a mid-life crisis sometimes they get sucked into a vanity black hole. No light emits, just the tatters of an angel who lost his way in his own legend.

Carlos Acosta is one miracle dancer whose unique gift for the past 15 years has been to free us from our sense of cloddishness. He was sent from heaven like Mercury, with winged feet, to elevate us all by his divinely sprung dancing. He is sweet and funny as Colas, easily led by the nose by a sly girl. He’s the greatest Spartacus I’ve ever seen, a visionary innocent who channels his sense of being lost into the heroic act of finding himself on behalf of all other lost people.

But Acosta’s made no secret that he suffers private anguish about his dislocation from Cuba - he has made television programmes about it, he wrote his autobiography about it, he made his autobiographical show Tocororo about it (which like his book had a winning naivety to it, at least). He agonises ominously in the programme book about "wanting to grow as an artist", which is always a phrase that seems to be begging for the word "up" in it.

For Premieres is probably the worst stinker I’ve seen from any star dancer trying to reinvent themselves in their own image as the thirties peter out, and I’m including Irek Mukhamedov and Darcey Bussell, both of whom set the bar heroically low. Baryshnikov and Sylvie Guillem have succeeded by being intelligent about it, rather than emotionally over-inflated.

carlos_videoThe show is “conceived” (dance people are always conceiving now) to be the on-trend marriage of dance and digital video effects - with a heavy emphasis on showcasing the digital people. The result is thin pickings for the audience. Essentially this is two dancers, Acosta and the Royal Ballet’s beauteous Zenaida Yanowsky, on a very large stage, with a lot of film padding (pictured right, a slow-motion whirl of images of a leaping Acosta that melds into images of Yanowsky) and a final walk-on intervention from the Pegasus Choir wrapping a gloomy night up with Morten Lauridsen's "O magnum mysterium". The magnum mysterium is how Acosta got himself into this arrant nonsense - it feels as if he took the booking of the theatre long before he had any idea what to put in it.

The first half opens with whizzbang digital imaging effects that make him look lost in space (appropriately enough), followed by a leaden, slumping 15-minute solo of abject misery by him, under a single light beam, and another identically shapeless, abject 15-minute solo by Yanowsky. Entitled Finding Himself & Ghost of the Memory, both are by the same talentless hand, George Céspedes from the Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, and both with numbingly bad electronica music. Yanowsky actually looks more tuned, zingier, in contemporary style than Acosta, who moves too carefully.

This dismal half-hour is capped by Russell Maliphant’s 1998 solo, Two - a short showcase for whirling arms and shoulders, to which Acosta brings a preening, body-builderish quality, rather than the whiplash fire and suspense that girls like Sylvie Guillem and Dana Fouras have made of it before.

From America’s Edward Liaang Acosta has bought in a duet of agonised sanctimony in familiar NDT idiom, Sight Unseen. Apart from Maliphant, Kim Brandstrup is the only other decent entrant in the lists, though the lamenting solo made for Yanowsky in 2005 is the weaker of his two Footnotes to Ashton (the other, a Cojocaru-Kobborg duet, is a treat).

Incidentally, none of these three dance pieces, pace the show’s title, is a premiere. The rest is all digital filmwork by Simon Elliott with sniffly titles like Weeping Curtains, Emotional Architecture and Falling Deep Inside, almost all involving slo-mo rain, rain and yet more rain, and giving us close stop-start scrutiny of Carlos and Zen gigantically enlarged and buck-naked, zooming in on their bunioned big toes or their lips blowing blubbery raspberries. The two embrace ardently while the camera circles, raindrops spattering orgasmically around them. Possibly they are conceiving the next dance production. Take Kleenex, for any number of reasons.

Premieres is probably the worst stinker I’ve seen from any star dancer trying to reinvent themselves in their own image as the thirties peter out

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