“Will Carlos be dancing?” asked the gentleman sitting next to me. Acosta Danza is a rare thing – a dance company where the star of the draw does not perform or choreograph, but rather lurks on letterhead, adding glitter by proxy.
Carlos Acosta was not on stage – he was 50 in June, now his dancing days are less frequent. He founded this company in 2015 as a talent show of Cuban contemporary dance – as great as the country’s famous ballet artists – and these striking commissions and hot dancers can speak for themselves.
10 dancers are extraordinary, with energy to burn. Everything is dancing at full speed – why shake when you can shake, why bend over when you can bend in half? Acosta puts together five tricky pieces in a spectrum of testing dance styles and nabs each one.
The evening kicks off with a European premiere: a performance by emerging American choreographer Micaela Taylor. Her style is based on abrupt, graphically drawn movements – jutting chins and quick hip movements, all with similarly rapid lighting changes and a clinking industrial score.
There are so many razor-sharp moments: squatting duets, sizzling band formations, or five men clutching each other’s hearts as if in love while two women just cough and move. Despite all the surprising movements, the incessant crackling paradoxically allows the tension to subside – it is nevertheless a strong opener.
In Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Fauna, a fervent riff on L’après-midi d’un faune, Debussy’s original score is complemented by new music by Nitin Sawhney as two innocent people in a motley forest discover how their bodies work.
The dancers throw themselves at his lucid tongue. The strong Alejandro Silva threatens to topple as he extends his leg or withdraws his torso, moving with speed and astonishing strength. Zeleidy Crespo similarly pushes her twisting arms and intricate footwork to the edge – the mouthy pair hops between her legs or spins on her belly like turtles. It’s a wonderfully sweaty, horny grip.
After the break, three more characteristic dance languages. In a loose portal by Spanish choreographer Juanjo Arqués, dancers hold lanterns to illuminate their colleagues’ solos and face all challenges with bold confidence. The cello recreates the tormented intimacies of the Nosotros by Beatriz García and Raúl Reinoso. A couple caught up in need, unhappiness and dependence: an almost breaking ballet, it’s the most classic piece on the bill.
Madrid-born Goyo Montero’s Alrededor no hay nada concludes the evening with a short, edgy series of sharply engraved cameos set in Joaquín Sabina’s emphatic reader of verse. Longing for subtitles, I fumbled with the relationship between the text and the rotating movement of the pocket knife. But even if some things cannot be translated, these wonderful dancers speak straight to the heart.
Linbury Theatre, until January 30; roh.org.uk