Reviewed at The Lowry, Manchester
Carlos Acosta's return to the MIF is in contrast to his 2007 performance. It is more intimate in scale and classical rather than contemporary in nature. It also benefits from the participation of the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Andre de Ridder. A series of dances are used to examine - with charm and surprising humour - the sources of inspiration for dancers.
'Afternoon of a Faun' tackles head-on the suggestion that the main inspiration is narcissistic self-regard. The humorous dance, choreographed by Jerome Robbins concerns two dancers (Acosta and Begona Cao) whose flirtation is interrupted by them constantly regarding their reflections in the studio mirror. Debussy's music is perfect for both Acosta's drowsy cat-like stretching and Cao's limber slinky movements. It makes clear that acting is part of dance. We are never sure if Acosta's beaming smile is an awareness of his growing affection for his partner or just pleasure in his own beauty.
Possibly to allow time for a scene change Overture for String Orchestra' by Philip Glass is played in-between dances. It is a rare mis-step; the ominous strings disrupt, rather than set, the mood for the evening.
'Young Apollo', commissioned by Salford City Council , is the only contemporary piece. It opens with the striking image of Anais Chalendard entwined in what looks like sexual frenzy around Junor de Oliveira Souza. Choreographer Adam Hougland uses Benjamin Brittens's score to push the performers through some challenging routines which, at times, seem better suited to contortionists than dancers. It is a vibrant and exciting piece but lacks the human element so important in the rest of the evening.
'A Suite of Dances', again choreographed by Robbins, examines the relationship between music and dance in a simple and moving way. Cellist Natalie Clein performs movements from Bach onstage to accompany the dance by Acosta. This allows Acosta to respond direct to the music and , indeed, at times he just stops to listen. The joy of the performers is infectious. Some of the dance steps which have the greatest impact are the most simple. Acosta striding forward with a broad grin or skipping childlike across the stage. After an introspective sequence the pace quickens with jigs and reels and increasingly acrobatic movements until Acosta can no longer contain himself and cartwheels to the climax.
'Apollo', the final piece, has music by Stravinsky and draws applause for the opening image of Acosta in white leotard striking a classical pose. Choreographed by George Belanchine the dance illustrates the enriching benefits of art by showing how Apollo is educated by three muses (Begona Cao, Daria Kilmentova and Anais Chalendard). It is the perfect climax to the evening. The cast perform with complete control breathtaking examples of classical dance with high leaps and spins.
Rather than just examining the inspiration of dancers Acosta demonstrates how dance, and all art , can enhance anyone's life. Although thoughtful the dances are tremendously powerful and leave us feeling both moved and entertained.
- Dave Cunningham