Acosta Danza, the contemporary dance company founded by ballet superstar Carlos Acosta, is breaking boundaries in Havana and across the globe. Made up of the best of Cuba’s eclectic young dance talent, the company is known for its bold blend of dance styles.
On March 6 and 7 , the company returns bring to Wales Millennium Centre their new programme, Evolution, presented by Dance Consortium, with an exciting bill showcasing work from international choreographers.
Amy Stutz spoke to three of the Acosta Danza dancers, Mario Sergio Elías (26) and twins Leticia and Alejandro Silva (both 30), who all grew up in Havana.
Leticia, Alejandro and Mario fell in love with dance from an early age. Mario’s mother was a folklore dancer, a popular traditional dance style in Cuba. Twins Leticia and Alejandro have been on their dancing journey together. Alejandro used to watch Leticia in her ballet class and began to join in from the sidelines.
“My teacher told our mum that Alejandro was really good so he joined my class,” Leticia says. “We both then went to study at dance school. At this point, we didn’t think we were going to be professional dancers, my mum just wanted us to have the culture of music and dance.”
It wasn’t always easy for Mario and Alejandro. There’s a stereotype in Cuba for men to be very typically masculine, and despite the strong culture, dance isn’t seen as a masculine career. “At the start my father really didn’t agree. Dance wasn’t the type of profession he wanted for his child,” Mario explains. “But with the help of my teachers and my mum, he was persuaded.”
“My father didn’t like the idea of Alejandro having ballet classes because of the taboo in Cuba,” Leticia says. “It was really hard, but he slowly came round to it as we got him more involved. He seemed to understand it better and realised that being a dancer didn’t mean you weren’t ‘manly’.”
In fact, dance is a tough profession that requires incredible skill, discipline and athleticism. “It was really hard growing up because I was constantly training, I had no time to watch TV or play video games like other kids,” Alejandro says.
The people of Havana are renowned for their passion and determination. Economically, it hasn’t been an easy time for the country, but it’s the Cuban spirit that carries the people of the city, “The people of Cuba always find the joy in life,” Leticia says.
Dance and music are the beating heart of Havana. “The reason the city is famous is because of dance, we are so proud of our culture,” Mario explains. “Havana is a city with a good energy and good people that are always listening to music and dancing in the street,” adds Alejandro. “You can go anywhere in Havana and there will be music and there’s such variety too.”
Leticia says: “In Havana, there is always something happening. Whether that’s dance, theatre or festivals.” Leticia stressed that their Cuban artists are hugely well known. “Everyone knows the great Cuban prima ballerina and choreographer Alicia Alonso (who sadly died in 2019) – and of course Carlos Acosta.”
“The theatres are always full when there is a dance show on,” Leticia says. “The queue is really long and it’s impossible to get a taxi – everyone in the city knows when a show is on.”
With Acosta Danza, Carlos Acosta is mixing up the dance scene in Cuba. He brings together classical and contemporary trained dancers to create a company that showcases exciting young Cuban dance talent.
The twins made the leap from dancing classically to join Carlos’ company. “It was the biggest challenge in my career to leave classical dance, but it changed my life,” explains Alejandro. “I am challenged all the time because each piece is so different. And Carlos is a very passionate artist and director, he creates a real energy in the group, it feels like a family.”
“What is amazing about being with Acosta Danza is the opportunity to not only work with teachers and choreographers from around the world but to work with Carlos Acosta who is one of the best dancers of our time,” says Mario.
Leticia adds: “It is great to have the opportunity to work with so many good people, to grow as an artist and then go out and show that to the world. Carlos showed us that you can do anything and everything. You can dance any style, you just have to dream big, work hard and you will make it.
“It is a huge challenge but it’s so exciting. Dancing classically is amazing, but you learn the steps and then you perform the big ballets. With contemporary dance, you are part of the creations. When I joined the company, I woke up as a dancer, it’s not only a change in your body but it’s a change in your mind.”
“As dancers and as people, we have the need to learn all the time. We have the need for art, for experiences and for imagination,” Alejandro says. “With this company, we have that. We’ve travelled across the world, working with the best choreographers and performing in the biggest theatres. It has changed the way I see the world.”
“It is a really special company,” Leticia says. “In Evolution we present four pieces and each one is different. The first one is by Pontus Lidberg which mixes the Swedish and Cuban styles, it is intimate and fun. We have a very beautiful duet by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, one of the most in-demand dance makers in the world. Then there is a solo by Spanish choreographer Maria Rovira, who choreographed Carlos’ film Yuli.
“And finally, we have Rooster which is just a big party to music by The Rolling Stones! The best thing about this show is that you see the same dancers do everything in the same night. You can see how we evolve as dancers in every piece.
“I think the UK audiences expect the best in Cuban culture. It isn’t folklore or classical – it’s the best mix of styles,” says Alejandro.
“After the performance, if someone thanks me, I tell them that if they enjoyed it, then I enjoyed it more,” adds Mario. “I think that is something special about Acosta Danza.”
Evolution Running order
Paysage, Soudain, la nuit (17 mins) / Impronta (7 mins) / Faun (15 mins)
Interval (20 mins)
Rooster (27 Minutes)
Running time: 90 minutes
For ticket details visit http://www.wmc.org.uk