Review – Carlos Acosta Premieres – Sadler’s Wells at the London Coliseum


Tonight I watched the death of Carlos Acosta as a brand name for a night of brash, exuberant dance as his “Premieres” show at the London Coliseum took me from excitement to horror and then to comedy as I gave in to the ridiculous waves of bad coming off of the stage. We started with a work that must have been choreographed by Carlos himself, because the language of movement he was using seemed incoherent, not just foreign but meaningless. His body moved from position to position, but it never “said” anything, although it seemed desperately trying to find its way into the various spotlights on stage, comically arriving just a few seconds after they came up. The black ottoman on stage that he looked at so passionately, did it represent anything other than an object for him to stare at? The video projection preceding the entire affair added nothing to it and seemed utterly divorced from what followed on stage. I was embarrassed no one had not stopped to question whether or not this piece deserved to be on a stage in front of two thousand people. If this was Acosta’s, I can only say that he is not ready to be doing choreography, and he must up the quality of his game or he is going to lose audience support in droves.

Next up was a solo piece performed by Zenaida Yanowsky, clad in a short dress and tennis shoes. It seemed a better dance, but I’d lost my mental composure because of the first piece and wound up wondering why the choreographer had her flashing her underwear at the audience so much. Normally this kind of thing doesn’t bother me, but I wasn’t able to take it seriously. Yanowsky was much more at ease in this idiom but I remained unconvinced this work was weighty enough to merit a solo performance in such a large house.

The last piece of the first act was another Carlos solo, one which I titled “For the Ladeez” (actually Russell Maliphant’s “Two”) as it was performed shirtless and seemed to be nothing more than an endless series of movements that enabled Acosta to show off his physique. This has become quite the theme in the Acosta shows, making me wonder if he really does have a tremendous ego or if he just feels obliged to give the (heavily female) audience what they paid for. Is it self parody or is it sincere? Because of this element of showing off, I was unable to really enjoy the movement, fearing I was just letting myself have a Chippendale’s moment. (I should have recognized it as Maliphant because of the box of square light Acosta stayed inside, stretching and turning and gliding through its edge – my companion liked this the best and in a better mood I would have enjoyed it more, also.)

Suddenly the first half of the show was over and I dashed to the bar to get started on discussing what we’d just seen (with my friend Ibi). Was it really that bad, or was it just me? And I must point this out to you, potential audience member: how is it that a show billed as being a mere hour and a half even needed an interval? Just what were we paying for? At the price I’d shelled out for stall seats – the only time I’ve ever treated myself at ENO, as I’ve enjoyed my previous Carlos outings so much – I felt like it was thin return on my pound. In fact, I hadn’t seen so little stage time since I saw The Dumbwaiter at Trafalgar Studios (£30 for 55 minutes).

This feeling was solidified in the second half, as we were forced to endure a long “artistic” video involving Carlos and Zenaida: walking in place, splashing and being splashed. Yes, we saw her naked and saw her boobs, but the image of Carlos naked somehow managed to preserve his modesty as neither ass nor crotch were displayed. I noticed that we finally started losing audience members during this bit; the naff levels had been exceeded for the evening. However, it all came together wonderfully as a Python-esque giant foot came down upon the stage, adding a brilliant air of surreality to the event. Ah, well, it was only going to be a half hour at the most, how bad could it be?

The second half did entirely feature all of the best bits of the evening. The highlight was the duet that I’m sure must have been the Maliphant choreography “Two” by Edward Liang (I was too discouraged to buy a program), with Middle-Eastern singing: Acosta was able to show his formidable skills at last. It seemed to me that this was the piece that had been rehearsed the most as well; it just reeked skill and care that Acosta’s solos had not. He had to work with Yanowsky and he was going to do it well, and together they created a few moments that made me wonder what the hell went wrong with this show.

There was also a solo Yanowsky performed with candles on stage that looked nice but didn’t do anything for me, and a last, bad solo in which the ottoman returned as a place for Acosta to sit and sulk, presumably unhappy about the end of his career as a ballet star. In a last moment that did not redeem the evening but which provided a pleasure I clung to desperately, the Pegasus Choir came onstage until they surrounded both Acosta and Yanowsky, filling the stage with lovely music (“O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen) while a bit of smoke wafted toward the ceiling. I imagined it as Acosta’s career dissipating into the sky. He’s been brilliant with the Royal Ballet but after tonight, I can’t help but thing he’s really going to have to rethink his plans if he’s wanting to keep in the game and succeed at making the switch to modern, because after tonight he’s going to have a hard time ever getting an audience to see him simply based on his name.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, July 28th. The show continues through Saturday, August 7th and I would be happy to include the names of the pieces from someone who got a program. You can also see the Bolshoi at this time which I highly advise you to consider if you’re debating which of the two you spend your hard earned money on. Or you can see Eonnagata at Sadler’s Wells, it’s going through the 31st and is a very pleasant way to enjoy more of Maliphant’s choreography. For alternate views, see The Stage, the Independent and the Guardian.)


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80 Responses to “Review – Carlos Acosta Premieres – Sadler’s Wells at the London Coliseum”

  1. Toptink Says:

    I couldn’t agree more – I saw this tonight and was horrified by the incoherent first half, though ‘for the ladeez’ was in fact a reworked Maliphant piece. But all that video and the flipping box and lights – awful.
    Wish I’d gone to the Bolshoi!

  2. Richard Says:

    Summed it up beautifully. It was embarrassing. I’m more impressed you got this review online within an hour of the ‘show’ finishing…

  3. Cpt Grubb Says:

    Hello – I saw the ‘performance’ this evening with friends who were as disappointed as me. Value for money? I’m afraid not. The choir sounded amazing but was a shame they looked so uncomfortable on stage when the lights came up and they had to move – perhaps they were under rehearsed. However, I think what really summed up the evening for me was when the person who presented the bouquet was chewing gum! The performance as a whole didn’t reflect the electric performances I’ve seen Carlos deliver in the past nor did it have the professional polish one would expect.

  4. Richard Jones Says:

    Sadly I can only agree with nearly all of what you say. The Maliphant was the piece before the interval in the square of light, I think – and that was the highlight for me.

    I shall read tomorrow’s notices with interest.

  5. Ecaterina Says:

    I am sad and disappointed that someone like Carols can produce a piece of such bad quality. Could not agree more with the review exactly my thoughts. If I did not have the hope of maybe at the end we will get the real dance I would have walked away right from the start. And I am going to the Bolshoi next week to help me recover …

  6. Helen Says:

    I have to say that I agree with most of this review. Having seen Carlos dance several times previously, I had high hopes for this performance but was bitterly disappointed, with the exception of his interpretation of The Maliphant, and felt that I had wasted my money. Thank heavens for the choir at the end…their singing was simply delightful and, for me, the highlight of the evening.

  7. Pd Says:

    Totally agree – very disappointing

  8. barbara.pearl ROBSON Says:

    Yes, yes. I anticipated all this ‘rubbishing’ and I too was ‘disappointed’.
    BUT – I was also puzzled..encouraged to THINK.. encouraged to allow my imagination to WORK and make its own ‘connections’…..
    Yes, at a widowed/childless 80 I am VERY much a besotted Carlos ‘ladee’. Do not mock me because I’m still human and ALIVE; still hoping.. struggling ( like him) to work towards a wiser more compassionate world !
    This evening of disappointments ( yes) ALSO uplifted me and gave me hope.
    ‘My’ Carlos seems to have reached the age when his integrity as Artist and vision as Human-being matters more to him than audience approval and acclaim.I’m grateful for this opportunity to witness a great artist taking REAL risks..pushing boundaries… After The Deluge the SUN indeed !
    Good on you, mate. A most inspiring experience -even though I’d SO looked forward to another dose of your GORGEOUSNESS !

  9. mimo Says:

    I disagree with this review entirely. In the programme which unfortunately you didnt buy (although, I have some sympathy for that, it is a massive £5) he tells us straight up that what we are about to witness is not the feel-good production of previous years. The possible reason soon becomes apparent. He dedicates the show to the memory of his mother. Those of us who have read his book, or even lost a parent recently can only begin imagine what this might mean to him. We were then taken on a journey (not immediately obvious at first) of exploration of where he must be right now. He has given us, his audience, what we demand for so long, and this time he was asking us to follow him where he feels he must go. How churlish to be disappointed by this. I, like many others, I suspect turned up expecting another dazzling night of Ascosta charm, and the shapes and tortured imagery of conflict, compassion and grief haunted me long into the night after the show was over. An impeccably sad and beautiful evening, one which was undoubtedly a homage to his mother and his complicated and loving relationship with his art, his family, and us, the audience. In his first piece he is clearly throwing off the restraints of ballet and glorying in the freedom of the streetdance of his roots. There was a choreagraphic move with his right arm that I recollected from Tocorroro, which for me represented the separation of child from parent, and was prevalent throughout the evening at various points, whether choreographed by him or not. Acosta appears to acknowledge that his audience is an old friend and asks us follow him in whatever new direction he feels he must explore. We are supremely privileged to be in a position to do that and arguably undeserving of being his audience if we gripe that we are not getting value for money. I cannot shake the feeling that this is an artist we have stolen. It is true this time we never received the charismatic blast of his smile until the curtain call and even then it seemed to be tinged with sadness. My companion summed up his uniqueness brilliantly – the unparalleled ability to project both strength and vulnerability in juxtaposition. couldn’t agree more, and amazingly so, he can do this in utter stillness, this for me was the beauty and uniqueness of the moments you called ‘sulky’. He used to be famed for his dazzle and leaps, ability to suspend in the air – and he is right to pass that baton on, but it is terrifically wrong of us to feast on the end of that Acosta like vultures. Now he brings us something else that no one else can. I There is much to value and enjoy in this show, but don’t expect to come out buzzing. For sheer enjoyment I would sell my children to get another chance to see him in Jerome Robbins A suite of Dances, or Afternoon of a Faun, again, but we owe it to him to support him in his journey which appears to be going back to his roots and allowing us a window into his soul. It shames and saddens me dreadfully to think that we could be so short sighted and ungrateful to turn our back on one of this generation’s greatest living dancers at a turning point of immense magnitude both in his professional and personal life.

    • shadowdaddy Says:

      Though I have no opinion either way as I did not see the show, I want to say thank you for a very well balanced, thoughtful and what seems valuable counterpoint. Too often a review like this would just generate a pile of angry namecalling from people who disagree.

      • mimo Says:

        Thanks so much, I’ve never bothered to post a review before but I’m bewildered at the fickleness of the public to someone who has sacrificed so much for our benefit. I wouldnt want to see him stumble about like Nuryev in his 50’s. This man can project an enormous amount even when sitting in stillness. Perversely, those were my favourite and most memorable images of the night. And I havent even paid tribute to the brilliant artists he worked with to produce the show. There were some technical hitches, there was some self indulgence, but hey, nothing that deserves such a slamming.

    • webcowgirl Says:

      I am not turning my back on him but he needs to really rethink what he’s doing with his shows and be more particular about how he chooses his choreography or he will lose his audience.

  10. mervyn Says:

    Bought tickets for Carlos and next week for the Bolshoi to ostensibly compare him with Vasiliev. No contest. The first part of Premieres was one of the worst I have encountered in 40 years of performance. Carlos walked around the stage accompanied by graphics that completely engulfed him, no dancing. He then sat on a stool for some 10 minutes, I felt cheated of seeing any dance. The interval came very quickly as a relief from the dirge. If you have tickets best polish off a bottle of alcoholic beverage, because the stool appears in the second half immediately. Bravo the stool. There are some good technical bits in the duet with Zenaida but these are limited. Oh no Carlos is sitting on the stool at the end. Awful. Very disapointing. Ex Carlos fan.

  11. Paquita Says:

    The end of Carlos Acosta ballet career? Please don’t get carried away…!

    I agree though that there seems to be lack of rehearsing. The Malinphant’s Two was the best for me but still nowhere as good as when performed originally by Sylvie Guillem at Sadlers Wells some years ago. The first Yanowsky solo was very good, she is a very strong, dynamic dancer. She seemed to pull more power throughout the show than Acosta. I really did like the video effect of them two dancing with water and thought it brought a refreshing visual and emotional interlude. Indeed forget about passion: the choir, the arabic score and all the other dances and special effects were boring. Better choreagraphers, music scores, proper rehearsal, quality over quantity would give us back our Carlos Acosta in no time.

  12. franki mccabe Says:

    My view form the stalls: The overture was fascinating and although I was slow to engage with the first piece ‘The Emotional Architecture’ I soon was deeply immersed in the beauty of the the rest of the first half of the show.
    My friend and I agreed that the second half was thrilling and beyond any thing we have seen before – we were enthralled by the dancing of both Carlos and Zenaida Yanowsky.
    I’m not suprised by the negative comments, so many ‘fans’ want the artist to keep doing the same old ‘same old pieces’ with no allowance for the artists need to ‘grow and learn’.
    For those lucky people with tickets I say ‘go with an open mind and your heart will be filled with joy’.

  13. dediblade Says:

    This was charisma at its highest. If you don’t recognise it, then more fool you

  14. louise Says:

    Thank you to Mimo for a sensible review and one made wholly through reading the programme and having an understanding therefore, of the actual show.
    If we understand where Carlos is coming from and where he is going with the dances, we follow his life and his emotions. Is it fair to insult him for this? No. Actually, what we see is different, inventive and emotive. If you are a true fan of Carlos, instead of just attending the show so you can say you’ve seen him to impress people, go along and join him on his journey, which is undoubtably a moving one, especially in the final scene when his soul is taken. This is not just a dance/a ballet/a contemporary piece that members of the audience may be looking for. It is a whole performance.

  15. Mimo Says:

    Dear Webcowgirl, it was good dance,it really was. Maybe not what you were expecting and perhaps that’s why there is so much disappointment out there. If you could think of it again without those expectations you might come to concede that the man still dances, for us, with all his heart and that we are so lucky to be able to see it. Nevertheless – debate is always a good thing.

  16. barbara.pearl ROBSON Says:

    Debate and dialogue in ALL its forms are both WONDERFUL things.
    What a FANTASTIC lively airing of DIFFERENT viewpoints ACOSTA’S latest creative endeavour AND Cowgirl’s reaction is stimulating !
    This piece of dance-theatre was, for me, so much more than that.
    For me it also had the quality of a powerful, disturbing and therefore valuable DREAM . A potentially revealing ‘communication’ born out of DEEP turbulence and change.
    Many are the moments and images that seem to have imprinted themselves upon me……
    I look forward to further comments. I’ve only just discovered this ‘site’, WebCowgirl. Thank you for it.

  17. Rossalyn Says:

    I agree with every word of the reviewer. My thoughts exactly. Never
    been so disappointed. This was not entertainingl. I saw no great
    ballet dancer.

    • Vicki Says:

      I am so glad you agree! This wasn’t ballet or any form of dancing! I am sure what Mimo is saying could be true but it was not what I was expecting and certainly not what I paid for! I love all forms of dance especially modern ballet so got a bit excited when the show started with the dark music and exciting lighting, however what followed was awkward and embarrasing and thoroughly disappointing!

    • Bea Says:

      This was not a ballet show! Carlos can not keep doing ballet and the same old performances just for you. Please open your mind a bit.

  18. cosmo brockway trevelyan Says:

    Completely agree with your words..The whole feeling was insubstantial and self-indulgent..I didnt expect or want ‘classical ballet’ but there was barely even any kind of dance just two strangely flailing bodies that expressed no coherent emotion and in pedestrian clothes (those jeans!)…The music was sublime though, and in the last act, was very beautiful, almost mystical..but a feeling of ‘too late’

  19. candace Says:

    OMG, am so happy to have found this post. I was there on the same night and kept looking around the full house wondering is anyone else bored? They are both amazing dancers, but that video was a self indulgent snore fest. Yay, you look great naked. Is it over yet? And that stool should have been the bar stool I was wishing I was on.

    Thank you Webcowgirl for expressing so well what I was thinking.

  20. Alice Says:

    Just returned from seeing Acosta for the first time. Bitterly disappointed and feel as if I have been mugged. A total waste of money. There was NO dance – just self indulgent tripe. The graphics were more suited to an art gallery – the rain effect irritating and I won’t even get on to the black ottoman. Such relief when it ended.

  21. Ondine Says:

    This is not traditional Carlos by any means but it doesn’t make it a bad piece by any means. He seems to be transitioning to more contemporary work and although it was a little disjointed I thought the music with the choir and the digital effects were excellent. I was not disappointed, quite the opposite I loved the show.

  22. Karen & Hugo Says:

    I took my 9 year old son, who is a ballet dancer and the only boy in his class, so he could be inspired by Carlos and this amazing dancing – he was so excited on the train up to London tonight and could not contain himself when the lights dimmed and Carlos appeared on stage.
    It was such a shame to watch his excitement turn to confusion “Will he start dancing soon?” And when he finally started to move it was not lyrical or emotional or moving….I’m afraid it was tedious, boring and repetative. We knew we were in the presence of a great dancer – he just wasn’t doing any for us! In the end it was a relief to get to the interval so we could leave. My boy cheered up when I bought him an icecream and on our way back to the station he said “What a waste of £70.00.” We are not well off family and I feel it was very poor value for money. We attended the Royal Ballet School’s end of term Matinee at the ROH in July, paid £6.00 per seat and watched the most fabulous dancing, both modern and traditional. I hope Carlos goes back to what he does best and I can take my son to see him do something memorable, rather than forgettable.

  23. Carlos Love Says:

    Carlos was utterly brilliant… for me he brings many things together… so I guess you purists wont like it much… but I loved the visuals and the sensitive music building towards the end…relationships are complex and at times ugly and this was a brave and perfect exploration ….excellent work.. really loved the second half and the memorising film where we see Carlos close up and understand the abstract nature of being human….. the choir are massive ….made me cry with the gentle dancing and all.. was very impressed…
    don’t get your rather nasty take on the evening… just have a look at the audience to see, many are fully immersed and confused and then refreshed by the evening.. A summer storm, in many ways… Loved it!

  24. barbara.pearl ROBSON Says:

    When does Ballet become Conceptual Art of the ‘Performance’ variety?
    I was fortunate enough to witness Carlos Acosta take this courageous ‘step’ on the First Night.
    But maybe it would have been better staged at Tate MODERN.
    Only joking.
    Thanks again, Webcowgirl, for giving me this chance of airing my view. Bye….

  25. Cherry Mattey Says:

    I was very disappointed with this show. When I booked in January the Box Office could not tell me what the programme was so I assumed it was going to be as the previous year a mixture of classical and modern. To us it appears to be like the emperor with no clothes. If only Carlos could have put a couple of classical pieces in the programme as last year then he would have pleased everyone.

  26. Lisa Says:

    Having been so looking forward to seeing Carlos for the first time I am very sad to say I agree with all the comments made by the reviewer.
    I watched the show last night (Thurs 29th July) having been treated to stalls seats (I rarely go out as I have two very young children so this was a big night for me) and was hoping to witness a dancer who I had been told was at the” top of his game.”
    I left feeling hollow, with an uneasy feeling in my stomach. It was a very evocative show with raw emotion on display from both Carlos and Yanowsky which was beautiful in parts and painful in others. He states in the program that the “performance you are about to see is different from the feel good shows that I have created in previous years” but I did not expect to leave with a bitter feeling from witnessing so much pain and torment with no real coherent thread. Dance is a way of expressing emotion but to leave a show feeling down and deflated feels like the the production was more of a self indulgent performance than something compiled to entertain or merit the expensive tickets at such a prestigious theatre. I wish the show had been billed in more detail to allow the paying public to decide if they want to pay so much money to witness such depressing performances.
    I also felt cheated in the sense that the entire production is marketed solely under Carlos’s name but he danced much less that Yanowsky and what he did dance certainly did not convey to me the talent I was expecting to see. I found the choreography clumsy, stilted and frustrating as many of the pieces used so little space and were confined to small areas of the stage, particularly the first dance (by Carlos) – The Emotional Architecture where he spent far too much time sitting on a black cube than dancing. He appeared to stumble and amble around the stage when he wasn’t sitting on that awful black seat and I spent the time waiting for the brilliance that in my view never came. I thought perhaps he was just warming up but each performance was very similar. Almost the only moment I can say had me sitting up not wanting it to end was Two, where body and light were combined in a visual feast of movement. That was something different, had feelings of hope and emergence from the depths and of course showcased his amazing physique and ability to move with brilliant fluidity. After that an interval which was completely unnecessary and back to another morose but beautiful performance from Yanowsky in “Footnote to Ashton”. Next was “Falling Deep Inside” a digital piece more suited to the Tate Modern than a theatre production. Half way through the second half Carlos was back on stage again dancing alongside/with Yanowsky in (Sight Unseen and Hand Duets) which gave more of an impression of him as a classical dancer than the other pieces but still -for me- did not show me much spectacular talent. She was beautiful I found myself watching her and forgetting that Carlos was the headliner in the show.
    To close the show the final piece was “O Magnum Mysterium” which had them both on stage in their last throes of depression before he ended up sitting on that black cube again finishing as he had started. The Choir was also given the stage which enabled the audience to visually appreciate what we had heard throughout the production. The music was stunning and for me was the only part that I found to be polished and professional and worthy of the venue and prices. The digital effects were something I had never seen in a theatre before and were most powerful and emotive however I want to see dancing rather than modern art during a live performance so would have been happier with more on stage rather than onscreen.
    Unfortunately I left feeling that Carlos had not proven to me he merited headlining a west end show and from this I would have to be strongly persuaded to pay to see him in future.

  27. Carlos Love Says:

    Very interesting, I will go again to have another look. I felt deeply disturbed after the show and somehow seem to have joined more of it together. Carlos is not from a comfortable middle class family where feelings are protected and live is more decorative. He has given us something very personal, and when this comes together at the end, I feel very privileged to see it. I agree it is a mature show and needs a deeper consideration. I loved the Falling Deep Inside and get the feeling I understand what is going on here. It is NOT all the way through decorative and is at times harrowing, but the dancing is superb and stunning and painful and beautiful and well thought through. This is something very special, and like most new visions takes time for people to understand and receive it . Ballet is moving on and can express very complex emotions and I have the feeling I cant unlearn what I have understood from this performance, it runs very deep and I admire Carlos for being so open and brave. It is not a stylised classic grimace from a row of swans, but raw and tenser and intelligent and very memorable. The pub scene is the Kings head and the Bus Stop says Swan Lake…. it needs more looking at it is all there .. I will go again tonight if I can get in.

  28. Carlos Love Says:

    barbara.pearl ROBSON Says:

    I just read this…Yes I agree… he is very brave and cant wait for tonight to see it again and understand more…..

    The final duet is very stunning and made me cry,

    • mimo Says:

      To those of you thinking of going again, I went again last night since the debate prompted so much. When you know what you are in for, it is altogether more beautiful. I have much sympathy for those who were disappointed, and I think this might have something to do with the fact that many of us bought tickets on faith, without knowing anything of the programme we would be given. There could be more communication in advance, perhaps? To Karen and Hugo, I also had tickets for my 9 year old son, after wishing that I had taken him to last year’s performance. However, for unconnected reasons I gave them away and I felt during the show, very relieved that I had done so. This was not a show for children. Carlos as a choreographer certainly has some room for development, but he is brave and should be applauded for refusing to be bound by the restrictions of classical ballet. He is expressing himself, and Zenaida Yanowsky did a fantastic job of also, expressing (I felt) Carlos. The show, second time around, is cohesive from beginning to end. The theme of relatinships, how cruel we are to one another (witness this debate, for example) how we repeatedly injure, need, love, and reject each other and do so again and again in patterns that repeat and mirror themselves was a clear and vibrant message. It seemed to be allegorical to Carlos’s relationship with his art, and with us. Constantly in and out of the limelight, reluctantly and seeking it at one and the same time. Being rejected, and needing it. And ultimately, floating out to us and away from us in a gift of ethereal smoke and music. I had tears streaming down my face at the end. To those who haven’t been, I urge you to go with an open mind and expect something very different from Carlos that you didn’t perhaps sign up for. It demands interaction, reception, thought and is extremely challenging. This is why we have artists in the world. This is what they do.

      • webcowgirl Says:

        I will say that I bought tickets knowing nothing of the program (it had not been announced when they went on sale), so it did come as quite a suprise.

      • Carlos Love Says:

        I went again last night and was prepared for the contemporary vocabulary.

        “To those who haven’t been, I urge you to go with an open mind and expect something very different from Carlos that you didn’t perhaps sign up for. It demands interaction, reception, thought and is extremely challenging. This is why we have artists in the world. This is what they do.”

        YES! This is the art of a great talent, who is loyal to the classical vocabulary and asking us to include something new, which has no skipping happy peasants and grimacing villagers attending in neat rows, but asks us to look at ‘the people’. Cuba, the seen moments and frustrations, how men sit and women are connected to men. I think Carlos Acosta is stunning, and brought me closer to my own lack of awareness when I see people in the street and what they have to carry inside. The elements of recognisable choreography run throughout the whole show and come together marvellously at the end when the mass of humans engulf the dancers.
        See it for the second time brought me closer to the choreography and I found it so much easier to take in and reflect. It is a fresh way of seeing and has a much broader vocabulary, more suited to our times, of respect for people and dont put them into boxes so much. Intelligent and well thought through and very passionate and moving. The ending makes me shudder to thing about it.
        I urge a second look if you are unsure. It helped me get into it. Unmissable.

  29. mimo Says:

    Ps Webcowgirl, thankyou for setting this off. Debate, I say again, is a wonderful thing

  30. Anne Redmond Says:

    I spent the performance trying to work out how to understand what was going on. The language that Carlos Acosta speaks fluently is the language of classical ballet. The language of contemporary dance that of another continent entirely.

    I was deeply bored by the dancing at times, I think because the vocabulary of movements was so limited. However, finally, the ensemble work in O Magnum Mysterium contained some transcendent moments. The choreography, including the painful repetition was truly and almost radically inspiring for me.

    Mainly though, private language is incomprehensible, hence boring, unless it can somehow acknowledge The Language.

    The contributions made by other artists involved in the production have not been mentioned in this discussion. Michael Hulls lighting in Two was perfect. At the final curtain call, I was waiting for lighting designer Chris Davey to take a bow. The staging of the choir and the light and shadows falling on the audience in the final scene was beautiful, moving and a skilful exposition of an important theoretical moment. This was the acknowledgement of a thinking audience at last.

  31. Emilie Says:

    This is a fantastic debate, on a show that left me disappointed (and wondering whether others agreed, I stumbled onto this impressive post by Webcowgirl and just as impressive comments). I did not expect anything from this show apart from seeing good dancing -whether classic or contemporary is irrelevant. Unfortunately, I did not see dancing and choreography that would justify being shown at the ENO.
    I feel that in part this may have been due to the lighting of the stage, which greatly hindered my enjoyment. Someone has already mentioned that Acostas seemed to be chasing the light at times (one can only hope that it was an intentional effect?). More importantly, the lighting of the stage generally was not up to scratch for such a big stage and theatre. I was sitting in the Upper Circle and felt the whole time that neither Acostas nor the lighting team had considered that not everyone would be sitting in the stalls or the Circle! I felt that the lights had not been designed to enable view of the stage from “high above” (which would be the case for a huge chunk of the audience). I could not see the dancers’ movements properly because the stage was either under-lit or on the contrary was over-lit! Just two examples, I was blinded when there was one light shining on Acostas’s white t-shirt (this impaired view of his upper body) and could not see Yanowsky properly when she was dancing in front of the small lights on the stage. The ONE thing I want to be able to do when I go to the ENO is being able to see what’s happening on stage! And when you have gone to see some of the best ballet dancers in the world, well such mediocre stage lighting is truly depressing. In case you are wondering, tickets in the Upper Circle are £45 (and I’m fortunate not to have a visual impairment)…

    • Carlos Love Says:

      THE LIGHTING was the BEST bit, this is indeed a very exciting debate.
      The digital effects were great too. The music and well THE DANCING STUNNING. I really have to say something fresh and new is emerging and I like it. Tough at first but it is like learning a new way of seeing. GREAT.
      An OPEN minds really helps…
      You certainly cant forget it…. it stays with you for ages…so something must have happened… This may be talked about for ages to come if this debate is anything to go by.

  32. Emilie Says:

    Very quickly in response to Anne Redmond’s “The staging of the choir and the light and shadows falling on the audience in the final scene was beautiful, moving and a skilful exposition of an important theoretical moment”. Last post and, yes, I am banging on about it…
    I did not experience “light and shadows falling on the audience” where I was sitting: the big light that the choir had been standing in front of -and thankfully concealing until then- seemed to have been directed squarely at the Upper Circle. It was like trying to stare into the sun at midday.

  33. fromparis Says:

    I live in paris and sometimes travel to see Carlos performances in London. This time i didn’t see the show but i think that you need to be open to the changes. Carlos Acosta is without any doubt one of the better dancers of all times. We have seen him a lot of times before with such amazing performances, truly to be remembered. BUT an ARTIST NEEDS challenges and evolution and i’m thinking now in Nijinsky and his “L’après midi d’un faune” It was not very well received by the audience (probably with the same words that many of you are using here) but it revealed to be a step in the history of dance. I’m not saying that it is the case but i think you need to be OPEN and understand that probably for Carlos it could be very easy to give us what we are used to receive: some good pas de deux and classical ballets with some other very well known modern choreographies. He is not risking anything that way. BUt if he takes the risk, it is because he is a sincere artist and person.
    I remember now another great classical dancer: Mikhail Baryshnikov. If you see what he does now you probably will hate him but it is another step in his career. Carlos is still young and powerful technically. I think he wants to take us to another level in art and dance.

  34. Bea Says:

    This review was unnecessarily nasty and clearly showed a lack of understanding. Just so you are all aware, Carlos did not choreograph a single movement in this show, so you can not criticize him for ‘needing room for improvement’ in this area. He is one of the greatest artists of his generation, and it would be helpful if people allowed him to grow and explore, we should applaud him for sticking his neck out, encourage him to go outside the box, not pull him down simply because he did not deliver what we all expect of him. How selfish you all are to assume that he can simply carry on dancing the same old classical pieces forever simply to please us. There is only so long that he will be able to continue to dance classical ballet, would you rather he retire from dance altogether or try and bring us something new? I found the entire evening to be an incredible journey. The music was evocative all the way through, the projections powerful and the dancing soulful, I left the theatre with tears in my eyes. It is different, and new, and I feel deeply saddened by those of you who were too short sighted to see that. Some of the greatest artists in the world had their work torn apart to begin with, and now they are hailed as classics.
    In my experience most critics are bitter artists who never made it themselves.

    • Carlos Love Says:

      This is not Disney, McDonald’s or Coco-cola dance. It is mature and clever and brilliant. It needs a modern open mind to understand it. No shame there. I can understand the frustration of not seeing or having the tools to understand. Go again and look deeper, and be less shocked. We all are afraid of what at first we cant understand. The review was very nippy and ignorant we can all see that, but from the heart. Go again Cowgirl and have an open mind. He is a great artist brilliant. Open your eyes and mind.

  35. Bea Says:

    I also think it showed that you don’t have to watch Manon in order to be moved. And for all of you who think that he did not dance enough, I would like to see any dancer, or athlete, dance solidly for an hour and a half, it’s not possible. You would all rather he kill himself for you.

    • mimo Says:

      Dear Bea
      I endorse everything you say – if you will allow me one response since it was I who said as a choreographer Carlos has room for “development” (not ‘improvement’ – that may be true – but I chose my word carefully nonetheless). However you may be mistaken about Acosta not having a hand in the choreograpy. The piece by George Céspedes which started and ended the show certainly had Acosta credited as choreographer for the second piece of it. I was not surprised. It was very raw and powerful for me, and thats why I chose the word development. It shot me to the core, but of course its also possible that was the intention. I also left humbled and in tears, and as time passes and I re-live some particular moments of that choreography, I am increasingly convinced that it was a brave and open dialogue (unsubtle, even?) with his audience that was sure to have its casualties but that must be a necessary consequence of it. Like many of us in this discussion have mentioned and I wholeheartedly agree, this is what artistry is all about. If I had to agree with any criticism on here it would be that a lot of people just didnt realise what they were turning up for and found it hard to re-group their expectations. It took me a little while too but was made so much easier by reading the first paragraph of the programme. To be honest, I’m amazed he managed to pull it off at all after losing his mother and all that must mean, so suddenly in May. Far lesser artists have dumped us for much lesser problems (La Gheorghiu, anyone?). And yes, thats a lot of dance for two people in one evening.

      • Bea Says:

        Dear mimo, Forgive me if it seemed in any way that my comments were directed at you. Your words throughout have been insightful and showed that you watched with an open mind and heart. I agree with all you say, I was just deeply angered by Cowgirl and some of the quite frankly astonishingly shallow comments posted on here by others.

  36. rita williams Says:

    yes agree with alot of your article – but i did like the to see use of arms alot more than usual – i guess i did not really “get it” – the words self-indulent, watching paint dry, tedious unfortunately did come to mind when i was watching the 28th performance – shame as i think Carlos a fabulous dancer.

  37. Mind over body Says:

    Just got back from the Friday 30th show and I agree with cowgirl 100% It was the longest 90 minutes of my life – the odd spark, but not nearly enough to hold the audience.
    This performance was a big mistake and has tarnished his brand.

    The highlight of the show was the occasional flash of knickers from the female dancer and the odd boob from the pre-filmed section which really shows just how poor this show really was.

  38. Online Art Gallery Says:

    Sounds to me it was a rough show and if it was you reviewed it honestly which is refreshing!

  39. helen ej Says:

    It has been interesting reading everyones comments. I went with three other people for an evening of modern dance not classical ballet but we all found the performance absolutely dire and dull in the extreme. I was very relieved to see webcowgirls review on the net as it might save ballet fans from an extremely disappointing evening. I think there needs to be other dancers now to support Acosta and provide some variety. The film was absolutely awful and if you want to see an interesting installation using rain go to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. I think the Colliseum is the wrong venue for such a series of small pieces.

  40. Matita Glassborow Says:

    I went to see Carlos Acosta last night, 30 July. It was dire – boring, self-indulgent, egotistical – and I think he’s compleltely lost the plot. There was very little actual dancing and a great deal of padding. The only good thing was that it was over at 9.15! I shall not be wasting my money on another of CA’s performances. I think he’s had his day and the audience around me appeared to think so too.

  41. barbara.pearl ROBSON Says:

    Well, Mr Acosta, You’ve really got us going, haven’t you. Thank you for so ‘enlivening us !
    I look at my postcard of you “flying through the air” & I’ve just attached this:-
    ‘ Flame dancing spirit, come
    Sweep us off our feet and
    Surprise us with your rythmns,
    Dare us to try new steps,explore
    New patterns and new partnerships.

    Release us from old routines,
    To swing in abandonded joy
    And in the intervals – REST us
    In your still centre. ( Amen ? )

  42. Lisa Says:

    It’s three days since I saw his show and two since I first commented and I am still returning to this web discussion to view everyone’s opinion on what has been an extremely emotive issue. It is particularly interesting to get involved in such a lively debate.
    Although I was disappointed with the show I have most definitely taken something from all this. Not that I wish to further explain my original comments as I still feel the same (he did not in my opinion show me the flair I was dearly hoping to see) but I wish to add that I do not doubt that he has the talent or he would not have gained his reputation. I just believe that the show did not showcase the breadth or degree of his aptitude. I have been compelled to search out examples of his previous performances on the internet and can see his is no doubt an exceptional dancer it’s just that the pieces I saw seemed to somehow clip his wings. I am open to any style of dance and would say I actually favour modern dance over classical but it just seemed to me the choreography could have been so much more inspirational. I have to say the performances have prompted so much thought and questioning so if that was in any way his aim he has achieved that for me. I may have left the show disappointed but I have also been left enlightened and have spent time pondering why.

  43. Lisa Says:

    Please forgive me just realised in my last post I have completely lost track of the days. Only two days since I saw the performance and one since I first posted on this website… rather worrying, that’s what having young children does for you!

  44. Weeping Willow Says:

    I’ve just got back from the Saturday show and I was very glad to have read Cowgirl’s review before I went as I was at least prepared for what sort of show it was going to be. I therefore sat there with my mind as open as it could possibly be, not expecting virtuoso dancing and waiting to be quietly introspective. I thought the opening film was interesting, especially when you could see Carlos behind it. The sight of a live human being in the middle of the projected image was fascinating and I was sorry that this was not developed more. However, the whirl of colour that circled in on Carlos at the end of the film gave him a superstar, Las Vegas entrance (the audience burst in to applause) which was completely out of keeping with all that followed.

    The first two solos were given very classy lighting but I have to agree with Cowgirl, I thought the choreography was dire. Carlos’ solo used a lot of break-dancing moves – but in slow motion. In fact “Adagio” was the tempo for the entire evening. Far from it being amazing that two dancers could dance for 90 minutes (as someone said above), with dancing as thinly spread out as this evening was and the unrelenting slow pace, I doubt if either of them broke sweat. By my watch, the first half was 35 minutes and the second half was 45 minutes (but no-one was dancing during the last 10 minutes of the choir singing). I thought some of Carlos’s Coliseum shows were on the short side in the past but this was really short-changing the audience.

    By my reading of the programme, Carlos and Zenaida choreographed their solos in the first half and, if this is so, we have clear proof that neither are choreographers. Carlos once said in an interview that he is not a good choreographer: if he knows that, why doesn’t he leave it to someone else who is? In the second half, there was a pas de deux by a real choreographer with a track record – Edward Liang – and it was astonishing that, within seconds, you could see both dancers moving completely differently from anything we had seen before. They were holding themselves like the great dancers we know them to be, moving confidently, covering the ground, using lifts – in short, real choreography at last. Unfortunately after seeing that, the last pas de deux looked even worse and was the complete nadir of the evening. The two of them running from spotlight to spotlight, tapping each other’s torsos, headbutting each other in the windbag – it was ghastly. I really wanted to boo at the end of this one but booing Carlos would be like electrocuting a kitten. The poster from Paris reminded us that no-one liked Nijinsky’s Faune on the first night – but at least half the audience booed that night and the other half cheered. Some of that would have been welcome tonight but the audience were soporific by that point.

    Everyone who has posted on here, both for and against, has agreed that the highlight of the evening was the choir at the end. For an evening of dance, that surely is proof that the evening was a failure.

    I didn’t know that Carlos’s mother died earlier this year but, having read it on this site, I could quite believe that the choral number at the end, whilst Carlos sat with his hand covering his eyes, was his requiem for his mother. But without knowing that, I would never have empathised with the fact that the Dancer was sitting in the corner, listening to the music, instead of doing what we had paid to see him do – dance. If he had wished to express his feelings about the loss of his mother, he should have done so by getting a talented choreographer to create a piece which would have allowed him to do so and made the audience empathise with his feelings. Instead, I felt completely excluded from the emotions that were being forced on me and I left the theatre feeling that I had just been to the funeral of someone I didn’t know.

    • Carlos Love Says:

      It was a brilliant evening, I loved the show.. I want to see more like this..
      Carlos and Zen are utterly brilliant..
      this is not for the faint hearted.
      The audience were in deep discussion about the show and admirations for the bravery towards the content….This may become a standard for contemporary interest and will satisfy classical interest. Either way, it is unmissable and brilliant and memorable in every way….Tonight was the best ever !

  45. helen ej Says:

    I can’t help wondering whether Carlos love works for the Acosta company or is chair of the fan club. That would make sense.

    Either way everyone is entitled to their views and to imply that some people were expecting a “Disney Coca Cola” type smacks of desperation.

    Still I have learnt a very valuable lesson don’t rely on an artist go for the piece. I always go for the play rather than the actor.

  46. louise Says:

    In the final scene, which appears to be a favourite, the choir are not on stage for 10mins with no one dancing. Zenaida actually dances until almost the end when the choir engulf her and carlos and take his soul. This is the point at the end. Herein lies the beauty. People go to see Carlos and are used to seeing him perform as a classical dancer. This is completely brave and he is using his name to encourage a future where dance can be exploritative and breaks out of the box. The show is hugely symbolic and beautiful to watch, with many people left in tears at the end. This surely, is indicitative of the show’s power. These reviews are evidence of that.

  47. lulu Says:

    I attended on Saturday and although it wasn’t necessary what I expected I loved it. Unlike a lot of the other comments I though the film was incredible and worked well with the dance.

  48. GWDanceWriter Says:

    While I don’t agree with webcowgirl’s overall assessment of ‘Premieres’* and certainly not her OTT prediction of the death of the Acosta brand**, I wanted to congratulate her on sparking such an interesting and impassioned debate on dance and this programme in particular. It is a big thing to generate so much comment on a review and sometimes it only follows naturally upon a controversial opening statement, which needs a degree of courage to make. Most professional writers (including this one) would be delighted to generate 65 comments on a review; good, bad or indifferent!

    * For what it is worth I agreed that the Cespedes choreography, front and back, was uninspiring but I felt that Acosta managed the diverse multi-media contributions well and the middle three choreographies (Maliphant, Brandstrup & Liang) were all well performed and welcome additions.

    For me, it was worth seeing Acosta try to be different; great seeing Zen back on the stage; and all in all a 3* event.

    ** I think the wealth of commentary on this posting proved that the Acosta brand is alive and kicking vigourously!


    • webcowgirl Says:

      Thanks! No doubt my feeling about the evening would have been very different if the first piece was cut altogether, but it was still too short.

  49. MMB Says:

    It was mostly diabolical and was one of the worst performances I have ever seen. The video projection of Acosta and Zenaida was laughable. Was it meant to be profound? I found it conceited and tedious.

    The duet in the middle of the second half was excellent though but was hardly enough to make up for the rest.

    The ‘death’ of Acosta brand may be an overstatement, however, this show definitely damages his reputation, in my mind at least.

  50. Beverly Says:

    I saw this show on Thursday night and wished I hadn’t wasted my money. I have never seen Acosta dance before but have wanted to for a long time. I would go and see him again in a classical ballet but there is no way I am going to twist and turn to try and find positive aspects to “Premieres”. It was awful, boring and uninspiring. If you have to struggle to see the good in a performance, it has not succeeded. Dance should be inspiring and should not send you to sleep or have you checking your watch every 5 minutes. The saddest experience I have had in a theatre for a very long time.

  51. carlos love Says:

    I am very ,inspired with this work and thank you for the debate which looks at how an artist can embrace the modern world with this very exciting tough content, unlike most pretty frilly ballets. I hope we will be seeing more of this, challenging and informed work,, and I welcome it. Very brave and stunning and mixing elements beautifully with a very tough real subject. Thank you also for the interesting debate.

  52. Alice Says:

    Carlos love: Your obsession with the great man is worrying. I was there. It was a tedious, dull, boring, waste of money – end of.

  53. charles Says:

    i know this is not the forum but I am stuck in New York with a prime seat for Saturday night’s performance and would dearly love to pass it along. Sadler’s wells has sent me a form to sign so the ticket can be released to someone else. any taker’s contact me at as soon as you can.

  54. kat Says:

    Without a doubt the worst ballet/ dance performance I have ever seen and I have seen a lot. The man can do so much and has such a huge talent this was SO DULL and DISMAL. My daughter 11 and mother walked out in the interval, I was tempted but was glued to my seat I had to see if I could make any sense of it. Sadly as a lot of you said I could not.
    Modern dance has a place but I think this was so out there I doubt if even Carlos could make sense of it. Maybe that was why he looked so angry on his black box.
    I was trying to catch what people were saying on the way out so I could ask some like minded people what the hell it was all about. £75 a ticket x 3 someone is on to a winner it sure as hell was not me,
    Off to the Bolshoi on Saturday for the second time this season now thats dancing cannot wait.
    I have not given up on him but would not go and see him in something like that again.
    Get back to the royal ballet and dazzle us again with your jumps and leaps its where you belong and i hope we will see you there for a long time to come.

  55. barbara.pearl ROBSON Says:

    Dear Fellow Contributors,
    How WONDERFUL that Carlos Acosta has ‘enlivened &stirred us up so much !
    I wish i could keep all your views as a kind of record of something true and WONDERFUL…..
    ‘PREMIERES’ has touched us ‘on the raw’. On a raw place that is much to do with our deepest contemporary longings/FEARS.
    It is a ‘place’ beyond words and intellectual understanding – so I most PROFOUNDLY believe…..
    All the week since I was there for its Opening Night, its images/rythmns have stayed with me. All that SYMBOLISM !
    Dear God, should not ALL of us be sitting – in the classic pose of ‘The Thinker’ on a “black box” amidst the wreckage of so much we once held dear and TRUSTED ? (- to our great cost, as things have transpired. )

    Our world in CHANGING – as is Carlos – and ALL of us.
    We must MOVE On learning as we go and hopefully, thinking/pondering as we go too.

    Great ART illuminates us – does it not ?-
    For me Premieres was/is an ICON; a window….
    And for those who still accept that we humans are MORE than we often SEEM to be and are thus ‘ part of the Maine…. for whom the bell tolls’ it is a true ‘kalyanamitra’ *gift !
    * and for those who haven’t written-me-off as some mere ‘nutter’, you’ll find an interesting definition of ‘kalyyanamitra’ on Google –
    ( by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao )

  56. Kat Says:

    My husband and i travelled from staffordshire especially for this premier from carlos acosta and i in particular have an open mind.
    This performance felt over indulgent, repetative and numbling long, also we came to see dance not a 10 min video of the couple under a shower!
    I enjoyed one piece where he was joined by the choir who were amazing.
    sadly no more to say…

  57. Kat Says:

    poor show!

  58. Cherry Mattey Says:

    Just to say saw Carlos at Covent Garden at Thursday’s rehearsal (14 Oct) in Winter Dreams and he was back to normal!!

  59. A year in blogging – Webcowgirl’s most popular posts of 2011 – and tips for improving your blog stats « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] Review – Carlos Acosta Premieres – Sadler’s Wells at the London Coliseum497 […]

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