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Acosta Danza: Debut review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘a promising start’

Carlos Acosta and Marta Ortega in Mermaid from Acosta Danza: Debut at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Only a churl would deny Carlos Acosta the chance to let his hair down. And there is plenty of evidence in his company’s debut to suggest that he intends to have fun with his new set of toys. It is not often you see dancers tossing plastic bottles of water at each other like circus jugglers; rarer still that the green glow sticks they contain suggest radioactive isotopes. If Jorge Crecis’ Twelve makes heavy weather of heavy water, it is a fittingly mischievous finale to a very mixed bill.

One thing is certain: Acosta has assembled some very fine dancers. The opening duet between two near-naked men is an eye-watering exercise in balance and muscular control as they move in slow motion with iron discipline. The semi-classical prancing of Justin Peck’s Belles-Lettres is pretty, flouncy and has all the substance of a shuttlecock – A Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired WAG-swapping piece in which a Puck figure plays with four sets of lovers instead of the usual two.

Smoke machines and hand-held lights propel the action in Goyo Montero’s Imponderable, which delivers a kick to the head as dancers collide and leap into curling lifts and accelerated streetdance moves with tireless energy. Riddled with urban paranoia and intimidation by rogue authority, it is the most political piece in the programme and the most effective.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Mermaid is a fine, offbeat duet with Acosta attempting to keep a very drunk girl (Marta Ortega) on her feet to the live musical accompaniment of Woojae Park’s Korean zither-like
geomungo. The rubbery steps, the dripping water and the unexpected soundscape elevate the piece beyond its simple idea to exert a lithe fascination and bittersweet charm.

Ultimately, it’s not an entirely successful programme, as it lacks a defining aesthetic. But given the composition of the company and Acosta’s willingness to try anything, it is a promising start.

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Acosta Danza’s first show is something old, something new, something borrowed, something bonkers