On Before Carlos Acosta

For charisma, no other male dancer can beat Carlos Acosta, one of the greatest classical dancers of our times, still spell-binding at fifty. Do not expect a Prince in white tights. Granted there are no huge leaps across the stage but the amount of lifts show that Acosta still has strength and stamina. Instead, the nine pieces of On Before, an exploration of the highs and lows of a relationship, shows a new Acosta: his art honed, understated, the surprise of his still eye-catching muscular torso coupled with exquisitely graceful hands, subtle minimalist movements in classically inspired dance melding into contemporary expressivity and an occasional contorted roll on the ground, hip hop style, a nod to his Havana youth. Laura Rodgríguez, who shares the billing is given more obviously classical moves. A perfect balance to him, she is elegant with impressive flexibility, and some breath-taking backbends.

The theatricality of the whole show is stunning… in which the play of light and dark is part of the drama

The director of two dance companies, Acosta Danza and Birmingham Royal Birmingham, Acosta as ever draws both on his Cuban roots and his career with the Royal Ballet – Rodgríguez is Cuban, a founding member of Acosta Danza, and Cuba choreographers George Céspedes and Raúl Reinoso are included with European: Will Tuckett, Miguel Altunaga, Yury Yanowsky, Russell Maliphant and Kim Brandstrup.

Despite being nine distinct pieces, they are united by a melancholic tone and by the crowd of black-clad figures that circle or cross over the stage between the pieces, creating a Gothic atmosphere. Unfortunately, the title piece On Before choreographed by Will Tuckett, is marred by a distracting voice-over by Christian Zeal but it flags up the theme of the need for healing. This piece aside, the theatricality of the whole show is stunning, not least the lighting designed by Chris Davey, in which the play of light and dark is part of the drama as the dancers step in and out of the light or shadows on the stage conjure windows (possibly of a church) in Yury Yanowsky’s Sirin. The most remarkable piece is Two choreographed by Maliphant a piece made famous by Sylvie Guillem, where Acosta dances inside a small square, his body and hands entering into a play of light and dark.

The melancholy mood is elevated in Part Two by Kim Brandsrup’s Footnote to Ashton where the swelling phrases of a sung Handel piece and the moving solo by Rodgríguez surrounded by hundreds of candles create a religious feel. A film projected on a front screen, Falling Deep Inside directed by the Cuban Estudio 50, also plays with images of hands, hair and splashing water - a welcome change of media and mood, though slightly amateur with uninspired shots of shower water pouring down on a head.

The other outstanding piece is the last one, where the black-clad figures assemble and there’s a live a capella performance (the only live music of the evening) of Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium sung magnificently by the Edinburgh University Singers, directed and conducted by Calum Robertson. Apparently wherever On Before is performed a local choir is enlisted. Created by Acosta in memory of his late mother, the choreography by himself and Zenaida Yanowsky, it becomes clear that the dark mood of the entire programme leads to this. The ecstatic music is contrasted with an extraordinarily simple and effective ending by the dancers. A lesser artist might have ended on a showy note but not Acosta. Rodgríguez lies prone and it is evident she has died. But then she rises and slowly moves towards the black clad singers, possibly the souls of the dead. As they retreat with Rodgríguez hidden within their midst, Acosta is left sitting on a stool, crouching, staring at the floor where she had once lain. So still, so sad. What genius!

Visit Show Website

Reviews by Stephanie Green

Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Edward Scissorhands

★★★★
The Studio

When Mountains Meet

★★★★
Lyceum Theatre

The Girls of Slender Means

★★★★
The Studio

James V: Katherine

★★★★
Festival Theatre

On Before Carlos Acosta

★★★★
Festival Theatre

Cinders!

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

On Before embodies Carlos' astonishing dance vision and features collaborations with major UK and international dance makers as well as Carlos’ own choreography. The story tells of a doomed relationship between a man and a woman set to a diverse musical repertoire ranging from Handel to Cuban contemporary composer Omar Puente and culminating in a moving finale featuring a live choir performing Morten Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium.

Most Popular See More

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £46.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets