Acosta after dancing Tzigane, Royal Opera House, March 2008
2 June 1973 |
|Current group||The Royal Ballet|
|Former groups||English National Ballet
National Ballet of Cuba
Carlos Acosta (born 2 June 1973) is a Cuban ballet dancer. He has danced with many companies including the English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. He has been a permanent member of The Royal Ballet since 1998, and in 2003 he was promoted to Principal Guest Artist, a rank which reduced his commitment to the Royal Ballet, enabling him to concentrate on a growing schedule of international guest appearances and tours.
Life and career 
Acosta was born in Havana, Cuba, on Saturday 2 June 1973, as the eleventh and last child in an impoverished Havana family whose home was in one of the rougher quarters of that city. His father was a truck driver, and his mother often suffered from health problems. The island nation of Cuba had become a socialist state after the 1959 victory by Marxist guerrilla leader Fidel Castro, but remained overwhelmingly poor. Acosta grew up with no toys, sometimes went shoeless, and did not even have a birthday cake until he turned 23. The streets of his neighborhood provided plenty of entertainment, however, and he spent his time playing soccer, break-dancing, and raiding nearby mango groves with his friends. He was an over-energetic child, and Pedros Acosta, his father, felt that his youngest son would soon land in serious trouble. Dance training at one of the state-funded schools, his father decided, would teach the boy discipline and provide him with a free lunch every day. He studied ballet at the Cuban National Ballet School with many influential teachers including Ramona de Sáa. In June 1991 he received his diploma with maximum qualifications and a gold medal.' Acosta is currently considered to be one of the most influential male dancers of our time.
The Cuban-born dancer, of mixed Spanish and African heritage, came to prominence in the early 1990s while still in his teens, and esteemed dance companies, including North America and Europe began offering him lead romantic roles over the next decade. After finishing a five-year chapter of his career in Houston, Acosta joined England's Royal Ballet in 1998. With his fabled grace and athleticism, he has earned comparisons to Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev. A writer for London's Independent newspaper described Acosta as "a dancer who slashes across space faster than anyone else, who lacerates the air with shapes so clear and sharp they seem to throw off sparks".
- 1990 : Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne
- 1990 : Grand Prix at the 4th biennial Concours International de Danse de Paris
- 1990 : Vignale Danza Prize in Italy
- 1990 : Frédéric Chopin Prize, awarded by the Polish Artistic Corporation
- 1991 : Prize for Merit in the Young Talent Competition, Positano, Italy
- 1991 : Osimodanza Prize, Italy
- 1991 : Grand Prix at Cuba's prestigious Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) competition,
- 1995 : Dance Fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation, United States
- 2004 : Nominated for an Olivier Award
- 2008 : Prix Benois de la Danse
Companies and roles 
From 1989 to 1991 Carlos performed throughout the world guesting with many companies including the Compagnia Teatro Nuovo di Torino in Italy, where he danced alongside Luciana Savignano, and the Teatro Teresa Carreño de Caracas in Venezuela.
English National Ballet 
At the invitation of Ivan Nagy, Carlos danced with the English National Ballet in London during the 1991/92 season. He made his debut in the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor and also appeared in Cinderella, partnering Eva Evdokimova and Ludmila Semenyaka, Le Spectre de la Rose, Les Sylphides and as the Prince in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker.
National Ballet of Cuba 
In 1992 and 1993 he was a member of the National Ballet of Cuba under the artistic director Alicia Alonso, rising to principal dancer in 1994. In October 1993 and September 1994 he toured with the company to Madrid, Spain, where he danced various roles including Albrecht in Giselle, Basilio in Don Quixote and Siegfried in Swan Lake.
Houston Ballet 
In November 1993 he was invited by Ben Stevenson, the artistic director of the Houston Ballet, to join the company as a principal dancer, and he made his American stage debut as the Prince in The Nutcracker. Following this, his repertory with the Houston Ballet included:
- Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake,
- Solor in La Bayadère,
- Basilio in Don Quixote,
- Stevenson's Britten Pas de Deux,
- the male lead in Harald Lander's Etudes,
- Jiri Kylian's Symphony in D,
- the Chosen One in The Rite of Spring.
The Royal Ballet 
- William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated. This was his first appearance with the company.
- Jean de Brienne in Rudolf Nureyev's production of Raymonda Act III,
- Colas in Frederick Ashton's La Fille mal gardée,
- Siegfried in Swan Lake,
- Actaeon in the Diana and Actaeon Pas de Deux,
- The Brother in Kenneth MacMillan's My Brother, My Sisters,
- Albrecht in Giselle, and
- the Principal Boy in Rhapsody.
- the Man's Solo in Petipa's Le Corsaire, at the Opening Celebration of the Royal Opera House,
In the 1999/2000 season he performed:
- Nacho Duato's Remanso,
- The Prince in The Nutcracker,
- Solo Boy in MacMillan's Gloria,
- Franz in Ninette de Valois' production of Coppélia,
- Nijinsky's L'Après-midi d'un faune,
- Des Grieux in MacMillan's Manon,
- the Messenger of Death in Song of the Earth,
- the Boy with Matted Hair in Antony Tudor's Shadowplay.
During the 2001/2 season he made his debut as Basilio in Nureyev's Don Quixote, and in the 2002/2003 season he made his debut as the title role in George Balanchine's Apollo. He has created roles in Ashley Page's Hidden Variables and William Tuckett's 3:4.
Guest artist 
Carlos was a guest artist with the American Ballet Theatre during the company's Metropolitan Opera House season in the summer of 2002, when he performed Prince Désiré in Sleeping Beauty Act III, Oberon in The Dream, Colas in La Fille mal gardée and Conrad in Le Corsaire. He rejoined the ABT (under artistic director Kevin McKenzie) as Principal Dancer, for the company's 2003 autumn season at New York City Center, to perform in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and a new staging of Raymonda (Grand Pas Classique).
Over the past few years, Carlos has enjoyed a flourishing career as an international guest artist, appearing in the United States, Russia, the Netherlands, Chile, Argentina, Greece, Japan, Italy, Germany and France. In June 2008 he guested for the first time with the Australian Ballet, in Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun, partnered by AB principal Kirsty Martin.
Television and film performances 
In 1997 CBS News filmed Carlos for a special report for their programme 60 Minutes (broadcast in January 1998), following him during his performances for the Houston Ballet and relaxing with friends and family in Cuba.
Television performances include two live BBC broadcasts from The Royal Opera House: the Opening Celebration in December 1999 when Carlos performed the Man's Solo in Le Corsaire, and in February 2000 the role of Franz in Ninette de Valois' Coppélia. Most recently Carlos was featured in "The Reluctant Ballet Dancer", a programme in the Imagine series shown on BBC1 on 9 July 2003 and presented by Alan Yentob. He was also interviewed for the BBC's HardTalk programme which was broadcast on Christmas Day 2003. In 2006 he was filmed in the BBC studios performing a dance from Tocororo, which was broadcast on the Newsnight programme.
On 5 February 2004, the world première of Dance Cuba: Dreams of Flight, a film by Cynthia Newport featuring Carlos and other former members of the National Ballet of Cuba, took place at the Miami International Film Festival.
Acosta also appeared as a main character in the Natalie Portman directed segment of New York, I Love You.
Tocororo - A Cuban Tale 
Tocororo is Carlos' own ballet and has been touring theatres worldwide to high acclaim.
Tocororo is the story of a young Cuban boy who leaves his family and home in the Cuban countryside to find a new life in a city. It is loosely based on Acosta's own life experiences. It is set to original music by Miguel Nuñez, which blends popular and symphonic Cuban styles and is performed live on stage by a group of five Cuban musicians.
Carlos chose the 17-strong company from dancers in Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, the Cuban National Ballet and Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. The "young protagonist" is played by Yonah Acosta, Carlos' younger nephew, and for six performances the central role was played by José Oduardo Perez.
- 2009: New York, I Love You
Further reading 
- No Way Home - a Cuban Dancer's Story by Carlos Acosta was published in 2007 by HarperCollins UK, Scribner US and Schott in Germany. It tells the story of his rise from a poor boy in Havana to becoming the leading male ballet dancer in the World, chosen by the Bolshoi Ballet to dance the lead in Spartacas that year.
- White, L (30 September 2007). "Carlos Acosta: a ballet superstar". Dance (London: The Sunday Times). Retrieved 3 October 2007.
- Arts & Books: From Havana, trailing sparks. Nadine Meisner from The Independent. 26 December 1998. Retrieved on 25 January 2011.
- "Carlos Acosta". Princess Grace Foundation-USA. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
- Official website
- Bio as Principal Guest Artist at the Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London
- BBC Hardtalk video interview 15 June 2011
- Carlos Acosta, Royal Ballet in CubaHavana Times, 12 July 2009
- Review and Diary at ballet.co.uk
- Interview Video of Carlos Acosta - By Havana-Cultura