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Posted July 17, 2003 by publisher in Cuban Movies

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Havana dream: Veronica Corveas and Carlos Acosta in Tocororo at Sadler’s Wells

Ismene Brown reviews Tocororo - a Cuban Tale at Sadler’s Wells | [url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk]http://www.telegraph.co.uk[/url]

Beg, blag or bribe a ticket, but move very fast. Even those who have never come near classical ballet, and to whom the name Carlos Acosta means nothing, will be excited and moved by Tocororo.
Cuba-lovers will be in heaven, and this unique, delightful show will do more for humanising the android myth of ballet than anything since Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake.

Only a man of magnetic talent and burning integrity could make a show about Cuba’s sizzling dance styles that’s also an intense personal drama about the complications of being super-gifted. Acosta, once a little boy lost in poverty and delinquency, is now a paragon of classical ballet, an international jetsetter in high art. But as last week’s BBC1 documentary showed, his talent gives him pain, leaving him rootless and confused (though the pain, and his honesty about it, is surely the key to his magnificent artistry).

Tocororo - a Cuban Tale is his answer, a 90-minute dance and music show about his home country and his journey from it. Brilliantly danced, brimming with that unique mix of heartfelt sentimentality and witty physical haughtiness that characterises Cuban personality, it shows a poor boy (played initially by Acosta’s 12-year-old nephew Yonah, a natural star) learning to pull together the two sides of himself, his classical toes and his Cuban heels.

It looks and sounds splendid. Salvatore Forino’s backdrops emphasise a dreaming quality in the straw shacks of home and a flaring, hot sophistication in the pile-up of images of Havana. Miguel Nez’s score is a very Cuban medley of barbed jazz and classical tosh. Acosta makes a very funny but poignant comedy of a competition between his soaring classicism and the magnetic Alexander Varona, a spaghetti-limbed mafioso oozing pimp cool in white Stetson and black shades, while dippy girls wave their handbags delightedly in the air.

Eventually, of course, Acosta does reconcile his warring aspects, and gets the girl, and the big red Chevrolet. But his treatment is far from pat. The band on stage you expect, and tremendously louche and masterly they are too, batting out diabolical polyrhythms in which the superb ensemble, from Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, somehow discern unison pulses to ripple their hips to. Acosta, though a novice choreographer, shows great flair, with emotional, dazzling solos, three beautifully sculpted contemporary-ballet pas de deux with the lovely Veronica Corveas, and ensembles that bring the house down.

What I expected less was the imaginative sense of drama, how he dares to contrive the whole show with the spontaneity of Cuban street-life - the performers keep up a constant, free chat in Spanish, and drumming and dancing seem to start when they feel the urge - and then weaves his inner world forcefully into this “reality”. A strange but powerful encounter with a voodoo woman (Mireya Chapman) - she speaks, he dances mutely - leads to the heart of things, as he stares into a mirror to find himself, exploding into ballet sequences helplessly, like the girl in red shoes. He makes you laugh, he makes you cry. It’s a great show.

Until July 26. Tickets: 020 7863 8000

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