Leading article: Diplomatic dance

It seened for a while that the end of the Cold War and the rise of the internet had made the concept of cultural diplomacy into something of an anachronism. But the Royal Ballet's tour of Cuba is generating some of the same excitement as those great cultural exchanges of yesteryear. Of course, one might argue that this tour, in itself, is less a breakthrough than the culmination of a process which began 11 years ago when the great Cuban dancer, Carlos Acosta, joined the Royal Ballet.

Carlos Acosta, The Lowry, Salford

A god-like Acosta on playful form

Nights of northern soul: Manchester's second international festival is an eclectic feast

From Rufus Wainwright's first opera to a play set in a bingo hall, Jonathan Brown selects the highlights

Carlos Acosta: 'I hammer my body every day'

It's been a long journey for Carlos Acosta, from a tough Cuban childhood to the Royal Ballet – and now his hips are killing him

Jewels, Royal Opera House, London

A twinkle-toed return to form

Two : Four : Ten, Coliseum, London<br/>Giselle, Royal Opera House, London

Maliphant's fireworks end with a damp squib

La Bayad&egrave;re, Royal Opera House, London<br>Mathurin Bolze & Hedi Thabet, ICA, London

An old-fashioned love triangle set in an imagined India draws the very best from the Royal Ballet

La Bayadere, Royal Opera House, London

La Bayadère is the kind of ballet where infidelity is punished by the gods dropping a temple on the hero. The setting is a fantasy India, full of lush forests, gilded palaces and vistas that look like tinted engravings. Emotions run high, with a princess and a temple dancer (a bayadère) in love with the same man, with general plotting on the sidelines. It's melodramatic hokum, and it needs gusto. This Royal Ballet revival doesn't have it.

Shift, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

The Royal Ballet's latest programme sandwiches a baffling dramatic work between two displays of dancing. Kim Brandstrup's new work is called Rushes: Fragments of a Lost Story, so perhaps it's churlish to complain that this fractured story is confusing. The real trouble is that it lacks drama. Confrontations are blurred, emotions vague.

Ballet Black, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London

Ballet Black is a small but determined company. Worried by a shortage of non-white role models in ballet, founder Cassa Pancho has set up her own company of black and Asian classical dancers. This second season at the Linbury Studio Theatre has an ambitious programme of new choreography, with works from Shobana Jeyasingh and Richard Alston.

Carlos in Cuba, Coliseum, London

Carlos Acosta's latest show is livelier than it deserves to be. These works aren't strong, but they're put across with appealing energy.

The 5-minute Interview: Carlos Acosta, Ballet dancer

'I enjoy spending time with normal, non-pretentious people'
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