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Carlos Acosta – A Classical Celebration review at London Coliseum – ‘magical’

Carlos Acosta – A Classical Celebration at London Coliseum. Photo: Tristram Kenton Carlos Acosta. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Although not officially a goodbye gala, this mixed programme of ballet highlights feels like a celebratory farewell for Carlos Acosta, who officially retires from the Royal Ballet at the end of the 15/16 season. The Cuban ballet star has thrilled London audiences for the best part of 20 years, and few want to believe he is really hanging up his ballet tights.

For this ‘Carlos and Friends’ style show, he has assembled a small troupe of colleagues from the Royal Ballet, and fine though they are, it is Acosta everyone has come to see. Acosta may be in his early 40s, but his technique, charisma and theatrical allure still outshine all else on stage. He has that rarest of combinations – classical nobility and classless charm, combined with downy-soft placement and steely strength, plus an almost magical ability to speed up in pirouette, something that defies the laws of physics but which he achieves while throwing off pretzel-shaped leaps and mega-watt smiles.

Grateful is the word to describe the audience, who nearly lost control when Acosta danced the Diana and Actaeon pas de deux with Marianela Nunez. Equally good is his deceptively informal turn in Les Bourgeois that demonstrates his undimmed range. Also on the programme are some lesser-seen gems (The Dying Swan danced by Zenaida Yanowsky), some neglected classics (such as Agon), and a punch-the-air favourite in Majisimo to Jules Massenet’s music for the opera Le Cid. Acosta dazzled in this. Without him, the ballet world will lose much of its shine – the brighter the star, the darker the night.

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Mixed bill of ballet highlights and contemporary solos to mark the winding down of a stellar ballet career