Carlos Acosta, By Margaret Willis

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The Independent Culture

Black Amber Inspirations is a new series of compact biographies of high achievers from black and other minority communities.

It sounds a worthy brief – but the results so far impress, with succinct, scrupulous lives of union leader Bill Morris, sprinter Usain Bolt and Cuban master-dancer Carlos Acosta.

Far from a ballet hagiography, Margaret Willis's rounded portrait of "the reluctant dancer" never downplays the hardships of his Havana youth – or the mistakes he made in petty crime before dance gave him direction.

Judicious critiques of his virtuoso roles join a revealing emphasis on the sheer toughness and discipline they demand. Even those readers who bridle at the "role model" approach will see the value of this welcome series.