'Tocororo - A Cuban Tale'
by Stuart Sweeney
July, 2003 -- Sadler's Wells, London
The London critics greeted Carlos Acosta’s "Tocororo" enthusiastically and I was pleased for this fine Cuban dancer in his first attempt at choreography. However for me, this show in a popular style only succeeded in part. I was surprised, as accessible programmes often entertain me and I am aware of the need for performances that will bring dance first-timers into our theatres; it can't all be Pina Bausch and Mats Ek.
"Tocororo" got off to a fine start with a duet between Acosta and his look-alike 13 year old nephew Jonah, which showed distinctive movement and emotional resonance between the young and older incarnations of the central figure, an economic migrant from a poor country background. Once in the City, I also enjoyed Acosta's virtuosity and perfect technique in a string of demanding jetées. Another plus was the scintillating ensemble dancing by Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. However, after initial interest in the choreography, it became repetitive and I wish we had seen a wider range of Cuban popular dance styles.
The plot concerns Acosta’s character trying to break into street life after his initial rejection, except for the attention of one beautiful woman. Surprise, surprise - he eventually wins the day and routs his principal tormentor as he first learns and then excels at street dancing. This over-simplistic story irritated me and further, the central idea of ballet as a metaphor for the simple life-style of a country boy was very unconvincing. For me, these shortcomings robbed the show of any emotional resonance, despite a short poignant visit to his home after the death of his Father.
Cuban music is some of the most lively and inventive worldwide and one of the highlights of the Hannover World Fair was the Cuban stand with a constant stream of high-class bands. However, the score by Miguel Núñez emphasised percussion over all else and the electronic keyboards produced a thin sound.
At the end, I felt no elation at the success of Acosta’s character in 'Tocororo'and even the love affair left me stoney hearted, but clearly this was a minority view and I'm pleased that the audience for this sell out two-week run enjoyed it so much. Am I turning into a curmudgeon? Perhaps not, as I was delighted at Acosta's real life success when he was promoted to Principal Guest Artist at the Royal Ballet at the same time of these London performances.
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