Acosta Danza presented four works to a large and enthusiastic audience at Sadler’s Wells last night. The evening opened with Raúl Reinoso’s Satori, a piece that brought together movement, music, costumes and lighting with strong dramatic effect, unifying them in the dance. The visual impact was powerful right from the start, as spotlights picked out dancers, male and female, surrounded by huge circular skirts that spread around them on the stage. Billowing cloth created the illusion of a mountainous landscape viewed from above, as a dancer bourréed on pointe from side to side, facing the audience, her arms extended, like a hovering bird. In another scene, a curtain suspended a little above floor-level at the back of the stage, revealed the legs and feet of a line of dancers working their way through a rigorous centre practice routine, from pliés and battements tendus, to petits battements serrés. The changing scenes, characterised by the sound of different musical instruments (percussion, strings, woodwind, or the human voice), and colours that morphed from blue to orange or red and back again, seemed open to various interpretations; the programme note explained that they were inspired by Zen Buddhism’s journey into the interior.

Pontus Lidberg’s Paysage, Soudain, la nuit drew on Cuban rumba, using a score by Leo Brouwer and an on-stage installation suggestive of long grass by Elizabet Cerviño. Rhythmic and fluid, it was as if the white-clothed dancers had magically appeared in a landscape, dancing out of doors as day turned to night.

Faun, by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, took on the near impossible task of following in the footsteps of Vaslav Nijinsky and the myth that surrounds his ballet L’après-midi d’un faune. Additional music by Nitin Sawhney disrupted Claude Debussy’s score, while the backdrop of tree trunks, and the images of leaves projected onto the stage, created a location nothing like Léon Bakst’s orientalising designs. The two dancers seemed barely human, like creatures scuttling in the undergrowth as they cautiously circled each other, then danced side by side, before entwining themselves intensely and intimately together. I half expected one to devour the other at the end of the dance.

Rooster, by Christopher Bruce to music by the Rolling Stones was the high spot of the evening. Carlos Acosta, making a guest appearance, was a charismatic presence, irresistibly drawing eyes towards him the moment he stepped on stage. The company gave a witty, tongue-in-cheek, performance of the work. Led by Acosta, the strutting men seemed well aware that their machismo was somewhat ridiculous, while the women held their own both dramatically, and artistically, particularly in the lovely lyrical solo to Ruby Tuesday.

Sadly the programme did not include a cast list, and so apart from Acosta himself, who is instantly recognisable even from the Second Circle, I was unable to identify individual dancers with any certainty.

Maggie Watson

22nd November 2019