Let me start by saying that I had heard many great, lavish words to describe the man who is one of Cuba’s most well-loved rags to riches tale, but none of those descriptions could have prepared me for what I witnessed and how the performance has continued to resonate with me so deeply and effectively.
As you can imagine my expectations were high from the indeed well deserved praise of a man who defied the odds and expectations from the moment he embarked on a remarkable dancing career. As soon as Carlos entered the stage all eyes were transfixed, every interruption ceased and the magic began to flow.
Straight away the audience was taken on a journey of fusion, Carlos has previously been quoted as saying ‘I’m all about fusion. A mixture of something people haven’t seen’ and that fusion translated extremely well to a rousing audience who went with Carlos and French-born Zenaida Yanowsky every step of the way. Zenaida’s flawless fluidity and grace were the perfect partner to compliment Acosta’s transcending charisma, masculinity and effortless movement; together they embarked on creating breathtaking precision with every step and turn but also the spark and excitement for what was coming next. They never let the audience relax in thinking this was all they had, they kept on giving and giving so much so, that it was hard to catch your breath as your eyes and mind went whole heartedly on their journey of spiritualism, heartbreak and painful emotion that hits you in your gut unexpected and unrepentant.
The spiritual, religious, visual and musical references of Christianity and Roman Catholicism as well as Judaism and Islam was felt throughout and worked effectively in taking the performance to darker places felt especially during ‘Footnote to Ashton’ set to aria Per te lascaiai la luce from Handel’s Italian oratoria Amoroso Delirium. The haunting and heartbreaking solo from Zenaida felt reminiscent to a mourning alter confessional of a self-consciousness fight against head and heart. The music of Orovela after the slow motion movement film, paid homage to spirituality and felt much like a born again rebirth after a water baptismal. The withered hand healing story told as a voiceover from an American preacher, reinforced the spiritual themes and becoming born again; breathing life into a dead unbelieving soul.
As both dancers struggled throughout the story to achieve a harmonious relationship we as an audience were privileged to see poetry in motion in it‘s purest form. However the likening of their differences shown in such changes as tempo, physical movement and lightening is similar to religious warfare and trying to live amongst it; this similarity could provide the reasoning for so many religious references.
As we reached the dramatic showdown in the finale, O Magnum Mysterium we see the re-emergence of Zenaida’s fragility and achingly beautiful backbends exposed and culminating in her curling up on the floor, giving up the fight. She was captured in his love until it was time for her to go forth into her destiny. As her soul seemingly continued on as she walked away, Carlos was left still and motionless looking at where her body had been on the floor thinking about the love he had and now had lost.
The eerie feel of the choir members wandering aimlessly between sets, was in it’s full spine tingling effect as the RWCMD Chamber Choir took centre stage in the final moments with electrifying voices that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. Ending on a religious note sang by the choir channelling voices of angels, Acosta’s On Before showcased a personal, international and universal performance that hit the right notes and created the correct balance of fusion. This in turn made the audience appreciate the pure brilliance of a man who has never been afraid to bare his soul by understanding what is needed and required in creating a flawless and honest performance.