Carlos Acosta: the next big steps for the Cuban star

Every now and then a ballet dancer comes along who is so charismatic that they enjoy a new lease of celebrity life long after they’ve quit dancing the big classical roles.

Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sylvie Guillem, Darcey Bussell and Li Cunxin all reinvented their lives after ballet with only Guillem and Baryshnikov continuing to dance (contemporary work) but all four morphed into celebrities as they also moved onto a second career as an actor, a model, judge, artistic director or writer.

Carlos Acosta is the next in line.

He turned 40 this year and gives himself two more seasons of ballet.

As he recently told Jasper Rees of The Sunday Times, he is in pain.

“I’m doing everything that I was doing when I was 20, 25. I don’t change any one step. Of course I was young then, I was a machine. I had no pain.”

He takes painkillers to block the pain, “because it’s a constant distraction. I don’t want to be 65 with a stick. The other alternative is just taking it easy, don’t do jumps – because I’m Carlos Acosta, people will come anyhow. I will not do that. I have too much pride.

“I respect my audience so much. And so, when I feel like, OK, I can’t, I’m gone. I think, if I really want to be realistic, it’s going to be maybe maximum two more seasons after this.”

Acosta will dance in Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet in Brisbane in early July next year when he is guesting with the Queensland Ballet.

He is one of three London-based dancers who will guest with the company and each will partner a Queensland Ballet principal dancer.

Acosta will dance as Romeo on July 3 and 5 while the Royal Ballet principal, Steven McRae, will be dancing as Romeo on July 2 and 4 and English National Ballet artistic director, Tamara Rojo dancing as Juliet on June 27 and 28.

Acosta has three new irons in the fire. He recently choreographed a new production of Don Quixote for the Royal Ballet, he’s written a novel, Pig’s Foot – a book that follows his autobiography, No Way Home – and also made his screen debut as an actor in Day of the Flowers, set in his home city of Havana.

As a Cuban-born star, his destiny appears to be a return to his homeland, where, for many years, he’s been seen as a logical successor to Alicia Alonso as artistic director of the National Ballet of Cuba.

In the recent Sunday Times article, Acosta said that he hoped to create a dance centre in Havana under the auspices of the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation but the foundation still needs to raise £7 million for this dream to become reality.

It seems that Acosta is following the pathway of Li Cunxin (Mao’s Last Dancer) as there are plans for a film of Acosta’s life, from a shack in Cuba to the Royal Ballet in London.

Li’s autobiography, focussing on his transition from childhood poverty in China to his acceptance into the Houston Ballet later became a movie.

Acosta has said he wants the sections of the movie set in Cuba to be in Spanish and believes he will have no difficulties in finding a boy to play he role of himself as a child.

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Carlos Acosta in Requiem, photo © Johan Persson

Carlos Acosta in Day of the Flowers