On Before

Choreographers: Carlos Acosta, Russell Maliphant, Kim Brandstrup, Will Tuckett, Yuri Yanowsky, Miguel Altunaga and Raúl Reinoso
Norwich Theatre, Valid Productions and presented by arrangement with ¡Como No!
The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth

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Carlos Acosta and Laura Rodriguez

In celebration of his 50th birthday, the iconic Carlos Acosta (CBE) has come out of retirement to tour the On Before medley originally devised in 2010 in memory of his mother.

The Cuban dancer, Acosta Danza company founder and now director at Birmingham Royal Ballet (to name a few) has created and directs as well as performs an intense and personal homage.

Starting and ending with a seated, brooding Acosta watching Laura Rodriguez (Acosta Danza founding member) lying at his feet, eight surprisingly similar pieces by contemporary choreographers (including Russell Maliphant, Kim Brandstrup and Will Tuckett as well as Acosta himself) meld one to another as a doomed relationship is seemingly explored through love, lust, dispute and mourning. The ninth piece, somewhere in the middle, is a slo-mo film with much water, splashing, feet and female nudity.

Acosta can undoubtedly still dance, his kicks and stretches lithe and muscular, but there is a lot of reliance on sensuous arm stretching and hand winding. And oddly wafting around and through the dancers or lined up watching are a host of space- and time-filling black-clad extras who are eventually revealed, in the final, magnificent piece, as a locally-sourced choir whose a capella performance of Morten Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium" is beautiful.

Rodriguez is superb. Lisson and pliable, she is mesmerising whether a deux or solo, entwining herself around Acosta or duelling. Classical movement is interspersed with athletic leaps and sinuous draping around Acosta’s honed torso.

All quite dark.

The diverse score undulates from visceral, pounding drum beats through chanting and Cuban contemporary composer Omar Puente to Handel for a sell-out evening that had the audience on their feet.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell

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