Carlos Acosta has been programming mixed bills for some years now, with very mixed results. Cubanía, an evening of one new and four older works, is a case in point. Much the best piece is the shortest, Russell Maliphant’s Flux, for Cuban dancer Alexander Verona. To a kind of sonar soundtrack of pulses and blips, Verona coils and ripples within a pool of light that first expands then contracts. Deceptively simple, it is also eloquent and electrifying.
Less transfixing but still engaging are two works by Cuban choreographers. Miguel Altunaga’s new Derrumbe is a slow crescendo of a duet for Acosta and Pieter Symonds, a kind of prolonged catfight during which the warring couple keep changing their coats, to the rumbling rhythms of an onstage band. If the clothing idea is heavy-handed (coats drop like hailstones from the sky), the choreography is well crafted and the performances, particularly Symonds’, are persuasive.
a blend of sapling suppleness with constructivist composition
George Céspedes’s La Ecuación is a taut perpetuum mobile for four dancers from Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. It’s the biomechanics of the work that command attention: the blend of sapling suppleness with constructivist composition, short motifs iterated, distributed and divided up in a kind of choreographic calculus.
Sight Unseen, by New Yorker Edwaard Liang, is memorable largely for the magnetic presence of Zenaida Yanowsky, for whom Acosta acts as both foil and frame. Otherwise, it is a fairly forgettable piece of vague yearning and vaguer mysticism.
The second half of the evening is given over to Acosta’s own Tocororo Suite, which he performs with Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. The easy mix of styles (ballet, contemporary, African, Latin) and the sheer vitality of the group’s numbers are infectious. But the piece itself – in which bumpkin ballet boy Acosta discovers his hips through the love of feisty latina chica Veronica Corveas and so is accepted into the gang of strutty kingpin Alexander Verona – is as hokey as can be.