Star power will get you only so far. Carlos Acosta's name, one of the biggest in ballet, is the selling point for this evening of new works and debut performances. You'd be better off seeing him in almost anything else.
The harder Acosta tries with his "Carlos and friends" shows, the farther the standard drops. His early shows were often fun: they had simple gala formats, showing off the star and his colleagues in favourite numbers. Becoming more ambitious, Acosta began to commission and create new works, proving that production and virtuoso dancing are completely different skills. Premieres hits a new low.
Named for its new works and debut performances, this show has just two dancers. Numbers for Acosta and the Royal Ballet's Zenaida Yanowsky are padded out by film and digital animation. Digital artists Barry Gene Murphy and Somu Mohapatra surround the dancers with a greenish virtual world. It's as if they're being haunted by spectral fridges and bus shelters.
In Finding Himself, Acosta wrestles in a spotlight, struggling out of his neon jacket. It's heavy, dull choreography, doing little to show off its star's movement. Yanowsky fares little better with Ghost of the Memory. Wearing a drab dress and trainers, she bends and huddles into herself.
A revival was the strongest element in this evening of premieres. Yanowsky is taut and intense in Kim Brandstrup's Footnote to Ashton, dancing to a Handel aria by candlelight. Russell Maliphant's Two, a solo created for Dana Fouras, has been reworked for Acosta. Michael Hulls's lighting traps the performer in a box of light, but Acosta's reactions were underpowered.
At intervals during the evening, we see a crowd at the back of the stage. They're the members of the Pegasus Choir, who finally step forward to sing Morten Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium". The singing is clean and strong; there's no dancing here to match it.
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