Magazine article Gramophone

Carlos Acosta: The Cuban Ballet Star on Learning to Love Classical Music, as Well as His Bold Plans to Re-Create Bizet's Carmen for the Royal Ballet

Magazine article Gramophone

Carlos Acosta: The Cuban Ballet Star on Learning to Love Classical Music, as Well as His Bold Plans to Re-Create Bizet's Carmen for the Royal Ballet

Article excerpt

My family wasn't from a classical background--we weren't considered cultural people. Another kid in my situation might have had a family member or a neighbour to point them in the right direction--to suggest books to read, music to listen to, museums to visit--but I didn't have that privilege. I didn't grow up with any exposure to classical music at all--I just assumed it was boring. Instead, I was surrounded by more popular trends jazz, song, rhumba, salsa...and Michael Jackson! By the time I was nine, he was very famous; although American music was blocked from Cuba, people still managed to sneak it in.

My first introduction to classical was in ballet class, when the pianist would play music from operas or ballets. It was all new to me and it was only when I properly devoted myself to ballet at 13 that I started to love this music. At that point, I'd already been expelled from the National Ballet School of Cuba but then I saw a performance of Flower Festival in Genzano-, I finally saw the purpose of what I'd been working towards. I wanted to do that, I wanted to jump like that. The dancers were very athletic, their bodies were so muscular, and I decided then and there to give it my best shot. Now that I've danced all the great ballets, the movement becomes an extension of the music. I know how to interpret it--where there is anger, passion, betrayal--and the movement reacts to the music.

I understand that some people can appreciate ballet music without the choreography. Tchaikovsky was an amazingly accomplished composer, and because he was so brilliant, his music stands alone. It's the same with Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. But for me, I can't hear music like that without dancing to it. I went to the Proms recently and saw Leif Ove Andsnes play the Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos 1 and 4. Also on the programme was Stravinsky's Apollon Musagete, used for the ballet Apollo. Of course the tempos were quite different --nobody could dance that fast!--but still I couldn't stop moving. For dancers, when we learn the music, it's already married with the movement; it's very hard to separate the two.

I'm always trying to find out things about my own heritage and culture, and this led me to explore the music of Leo Brouwer. …

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