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Carlos Acosta in Spartacus.

Bolshoi Ballet London Coliseum August 6-8, 2007

It is a role he was born to dance, a role that demands enormous stamina and physical prowess, performed from the heart. The Cuban super-missile, Carlos Acosta has become one of the few foreigners to be invited by the Bolshoi Ballet--and certainly the first black dancer--to perform the leading role of Spartacus with the company. Coached in Moscow by Mikhail Lavrovsky, one of the ballet's fine original interpreters, he made a much acclaimed debut this July at the New Stage in Moscow (the Bolshoi Theatre is undergoing restoration) and was immediately placed alongside the handful of iconic Bolshoi males who have brought the role alive in its 39-year history. The Bolshoi's three-week tour to London this summer included both ballet and star, which guaranteed much press hype, packed houses, and people pleading for spare tickets.

The creator of the role, Vladimir Vasiliev (whom I saw many times during my stay in the Soviet Union in the late '70s), will forever remain for me the ultimate hero of Yuri Grigorovich's ballet for his powerful presence, compassion, and musical sensitivity. Then, in 1985, the wild Tatar, Irek Mukhamedov, burst onto the scene exuding macho charisma as he catapulted around the stage in breathtaking leaps. Acosta had a lot to live up to--especially since dance styles have changed over the years. But his Russian training in Cuba would have given him an understanding of Soviet propaganda ballets and the physicality they demand. He is a deep thinker and was determined to make the role his own--and he succeeded brilliantly. Acosta imprinted his hero with humanity, humility, and a passion for the cause of freedom, throwing himself into the drama, convincing us with his innermost passions. (It must have been challenging to keep the momentum of characterization going since, after each act, the company took traditional bows where he was required to smile and hold hands with his "enemy"). Power and drama surge through his very being, igniting every aspect of his performance. Slicing the air in the repetitive diagonal jetes, he barely touched the floor before becoming airborne again like a smooth stone skimming the surface of a placid lake. Other times, his sheer force exploded in barrel-turns ending with a knife-cutting double that had the audience gasping, then cheering. Alternating with this turbo drive were the tender, intimate moments with wife Phrygia (the soft and lyrical Anna Antonicheva), and the dizzying one-handed high lifts which he accomplished with assurance.

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Acosta gave a first-class performance, one that will be remembered for many years and one that took the whole cast to a visible high. Congratulations are due to the Bolshoi Theatre for giving this once-break-dancing truant lad from Cuba the opportunity to become a Bolshoi legend.

Go to www.dancemagazine.com to read Margaret Willis' reviews of other Bolshoi performances in London.

Reviewed by Margaret Willis
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Author:Willis, Margaret
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance review
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Oct 1, 2007
Words:482
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