Recently, Carlos Acosta has been branching out from ballet superstardom. Last year he presented Premieres, a rather misjudged programme of short modern ballets for himself and fellow Royal Ballet dancer Zenaida Yanowsky. Premieres Plus is a kind of retake: basically the same evening, but with cuts and additions. Overall, it still doesn’t work, feeling studied, artful and hollow.
A few motifs thread through its nine episodes: shadowy stages sundered by dramatic cones, squares or strips of light; a chorus of singers wafting through like glum passers-by; music that swings between baleful religiosity and lightweight electronica. This portentous framework dampens even the sparkier sequences. One of those is Russell Maliphant’s Two, which sees Acosta in a vertical shaft of light, his body a gyroscope that sends his limbs zapping through the air like rays – even if he never quite seems to unleash his energies. Another is Yanowsky’s will-o’-the-wisp solo, Sirin, choreographed by her brother Yury, who plays to her strengths: her steely technique, her way of making odd moves look natural, and familar ones – tendus, arabesques and suchlike – look strange.
The solos work better than the duets, Acosta showing off his pantherine grace in Miguel Altunaga’s Memoria, Yanowsky revealing an introspective side in Kim Brandstrup‘s Footnote to Ashton. But even here, as well as in the remaining items – a blandly tasteful film by Simon Elliott, and duets by William Tuckett, Edwaard Liang, George Céspedes and, finally, Acosta and Yanowsky themselves – weighty imagery is loaded on to material too thin to support it. It all ends up looking arty and feeling empty, with Acosta in particular casting around for some dramatic raison d’etre. The same goes for Premieres Plus as a whole: Acosta seems to be exploring a new role without yet finding his heart or his guts in it.