Carlos Acosta (third from left) struts his stuff in Rooster – photo supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal

Many of us who have not yet achieved it hanker after a trip to Cuba. This yearning is greatly encouraged by watching the sublime Acosta Danza dance company. They are a young and quite ridiculously attractive group of skilled dancers and performers who wow audiences the world over. They were created as a company quite recently, in 2015, but have rapidly forged a reputation for thrilling dance productions.

In the days before their Norwich Theatre Royal performances they had just flown back from touring China, but there was not a jot of evidence of any travel weariness in their vibrant, precise and complex dances. Norwich is fortunate to have hosted the European premiere of Evolution, their latest assembly of four distinctive works.

The show opens with Satori, choreographed by Raúl Reinoso, where the stage is dominated by a huge blue silk sheet through which a number of apparently naked dancers pop up and disappear just as quickly. The work is full of symbolism as it tells a story of spiritual illumination, making us think of the ever changing boundaries between internal and external spaces and concepts. A lively original score from Pepe Gavilondo combines sounds from many sources from folk to electronica.

Next up is the first ever European performance of Paysage, Soudain, La Nuit. Choreographed by Pontus Lidberg this lyrical and romantic piece features many small vignettes between couples and small groups of people, with a background of what looked like a backlit field of barley. Sadly it looked as though Theresa May had trampled through one bit giving my section of the audience a blinding head-on light which made the rest of the stage hard to see. This kind of fierce backlighting is an all-too-common theme of stage productions these days, where directors seem to forget that a large part of their audiences tend to be people in the latter third of their lives whose eyes cannot adjust to this abuse. That small gripe apart, this was another delightful work.

After a small pause we came to the dance which was the highlight for me – Faun – choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and set to familiar musical themes from Claude Debussy, albeit with additional themes from Nitin Sawney. Two dancers, Zeleydi Crespo and Carlos Luis Blanco move together as one in a complex and developing physical relationship that hints at the many different ways that two living beings can interact with each other. A breathtakingly beautiful work, superbly performed.

The final work, Rooster, is an upbeat rousing finale that takes six familiar Rolling Stones numbers and sets dance to them appropriate to the lyrics. The result is often funny but full of drama and pathos with the side bonus that in future every time you hear these famous tracks these dances will come to mind, along with their impressive costumes. A hundred little tales are told on a sometimes busy stage as choreographer Christopher Bruce lifts every nuance from the Stones originals, with Carlos Acosta himself joining the dance. Great fun with a living juke box feel to it, Rooster is a climax to a great show guaranteed to send you home smiling.

Carlos Acosta takes on a new role as Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January and will doubtless lead that prestigious company in exciting new directions, but I hope he will still inspire and lead the company that bears his name and gave us an exceptionally fine evening of the best of modern dance here in Norwich.

© Julian Swainson 2019

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