Page 3 Profile: Carlos Acosta, ballet dancer


No pain, no gain.

Famed for his grace and athleticism, Carlos Acosta is one of the greatest ballet dancers in history – right up there with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev. The Cuban sensation has always been an advocate for hard work but, on the eve of his retirement, the 40-year-old has expressed concerns that the next generation of ballet stars lacks commitment and passion.

Why does he think that?

Acosta told the Radio Times: “With phones, computer games and DVDs kids are always distracted, always entertained. If you have so many other things to help you make it through life, why try hard to achieve anything? In the new generation the passion and the commitment has diminished. Everything has to be easy. And ballet is very, very hard.”

How hard is very, very hard?

Ballet dancers don’t have days off – no really, they don’t. Acosta has admitted that he pushes and punishes his body beyond all physical limits.

Where did he get his work ethic?

Born in Havana to a desperately poor family, the troublesome and truanting Acosta, the youngest of 11 children, was sent to Cuba’s National Ballet School by his father to teach him discipline. Reluctant at first, his natural talent shone through and ballet became a ticket out of his humble beginnings. Acosta became a principal dancer at the age of 16 and has since performed with companies including Paris Opera, the Bolshoi, the American Ballet Theatre and the English National Ballet.

So how does he intend to bow out?

Acosta is currently the Principal Guest Artist at the Royal Ballet and has just finished playing Romeo alongside Natalia Osipova’s Juliet. He plans to do one more season before hanging up his classical dancing shoes, but there are still many more strings to his bow. Acosta has already published an acclaimed autobiography, “No Way Home”, and a novel called “Pig’s Foot”, as well as squeezing in some acting.

He’s unstoppable.

“I feel like a lion unleashed from his cage. Roar!” says Acosta. Watch out.