English National Ballet
National Ballet of Cuba
The Royal Ballet: Principal Guest Artist (1998-2016)
Born in Havana in 1973, Carlos Acosta trained at the National Ballet School of Cuba with many of its most influential teachers, including Ramona de Sáa. From 1989 to 1991, Acosta performed throughout the world, guesting with several companies including the Compagnia Teatro Nuovo di Torino in Italy, where he danced alongside Luciana Savignano.
In 1990, he won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne, the Grand Prix at the forth biennial Concours International de Danse de Paris, Vignale Danza Prize in Italy, and the Frédéric Chopin Prize, awarded by the Polish Artistic Corporation.
Upon the invitation of Ivan Nagy, Acosta was invited to dance as a principal with the English National Ballet in London during their 1991/92 season. He made his debut in the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor and also appeared in Cinderella (partnering Eva Evdokimova and Ludmila Semenyaka), Le Spectre de la Rose, Les Sylphides, and as the Prince in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker.
In 1991, he won the Prize for Merit in the Young Talent Competition in Positano, Italy; the Italian Osimodanza Prize; and the Grand Prix at Cuba’s prestigious Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) competition.
Acosta danced with the National Ballet of Cuba for six months during 1992/93 under Alicia Alonso. In October 1993 and September 1994, he toured with the company to Madrid, Spain, where he danced various roles including Albrecht in Giselle, Basilio in Don Quixote, and Siegfried in Swan Lake.
He was invited by Ben Stevenson to dance as principal with the Houston Ballet between 1993 and 1998. Here he made his American stage debut as the Prince in The Nutcracker. Following this, his repertory with the Houston Ballet included Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Solor in La Bayadère, Basilio in Don Quixote, Stevenson’s Britten Pas de Deux, the male lead in Harald Lander’s Etudes, Jiri Kylian’s Symphony in D, and the Chosen One in The Rite of Spring.
He won the Dance Fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation, United States in 1995. In 1997, he created the role of Frederick in Ben Stevenson’s Dracula and in 1998, the role of Misgir in the première of Stevenson’s The Snow Maiden, partnering Nina Ananiashvili.
Acosta joined The Royal Ballet under the direction of Anthony Dowell in 1998 before changing his title to principal guest artist in 2003. He remains in the company today.
In The Royal Ballet’s 1999/2000 seasons he performed: Nacho Duato’s Remanso, The Prince in The Nutcracker, Solo Boy in MacMillan’s Gloria, Franz in Ninette de Valois’ production of Coppélia, Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’un faune, Des Grieux in MacMillan’s Manon, the Messenger of Death in Song of the Earth, the Boy with Matted Hair in Anthony Tudor’s Shadowplay.
During the 2001/02 season he made his debut as Basilio in Nureyev’s Don Quixote, and in the 2002/2003 season he made his debut as the title role in George Balanchine’s Apollo. He has created roles in Ashley Page’s Hidden Variables and William Tuckett’s 3:4.
Other roles with the company include William Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated (his first appearance with the company); Jean de Brienne in Rudolf Nureyev’s production of Raymonda Act III; Colas in Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée; Siegfried in Swan Lake; Actaeon in the Diana and Actaeon Pas de Deux; The Brother in Kenneth MacMillan’s My Brother, My Sisters; Albrecht in Giselle; lead roles in Coppelia; and the Principal Boy in Rhapsody. He also performed the Man’s Solo in Petipa’s Le Corsaire at the Opening Celebration of the Royal Opera House.
Acosta has performed as guest principal artist with many leading ballet companies around the world. In the 2002, he joined the American Ballet Theatre during the company’s Metropolitan Opera House summer season, when he performed Prince Désiré in Sleeping Beauty Act III, Oberon in The Dream, Colas in La Fille mal gardée, and Conrad in Le Corsaire. He rejoined ABT (under artistic director Kevin McKenzie) as a principal dancer for the company’s 2003 autumn season at New York City Centre, to perform in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and a new staging of Raymonda (Grand Pas Classique).
Acosta also performed Basilio in Nureyev’s version of Don Quixote in 2005, as well as Solor in Nureyev’s La Bayadère with the Paris Opera Ballet in 2006. He won critical acclaim in Moscow and London in 2007 for the role of Spartacus, which he performed with the Bolshoi Ballet. The production was re-staged and filmed in January 2008 in the Paris Opera’s Palais Garnier, especially for Acosta.
He has written and choreographed his own semi-autobiographical show, Tocororo. The show was created in Havana in 2002/3 and premiered in Cuba at the Sala Garcia Lorca in 2003. Tocororo subsequently broke all box office records at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London and was nominated for an Olivier award in 2004.
In 2006, Acosta received the Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa by the London Metropolitan University. In 2007, he won a coveted Outstanding Achievement in Dance award at the Laurence Olivier Awards for his 2006 program entitled Carlos Acosta and friends of The Royal Ballet, first staged at Sadler’s Wells.
In recent years, Acosta has performed the lead role in the following ballets with The Royal Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty, The Four Temperaments, Rhapsody, Apollo, Theme And Variations, Mayerling, Pierrot Lunaire, Song Of The Earth, Swan Lake, Manon, La Bayadère, Dances at a Gathering, Giselle, Jewels, Winter Dreams, Requiem, Agon, Gloria, The Judas Tree, and Romeo and Juliet.
He has enjoyed a flourishing career as an international guest artist, appearing in the United States, Russia, the Netherlands, Chile, Argentina, Greece, Japan, Italy, Germany, and France. In June 2008, he guested for the first time with the Australian Ballet, in Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, partnered by AB principal Kirsty Martin.
He continues to develop and produce his own hugely popular and award-winning shows in London and throughout Europe, including both classical and more contemporary repertoire with guest artists from the Royal Ballet and often championing relatively unknown choreographers from his native Cuba in the process. He was also instrumental in taking the Royal Ballet on tour to Havana in the summer of 2009.
Acosta recently performed with Tamara Rojo and The Royal Ballet cast at the opening night of Romeo and Juliet at London’s O2 arena in June 2011, to an audience of 13,500.
His self-written autobiography No Way Home was published in October 2007 by Harper Collins in the UK and by Scribner in the US; it became Book of the Week by the BBC Radio 4 program.
Acosta’s television appearances include the CBS News special report in 1997 for their program 60 Minutes (broadcast in January 1998), which followed him during his performances for the Houston Ballet and relaxing with friends and family in Cuba. Other television performances include two live BBC broadcasts from The Royal Opera House: the Opening Celebration in December 1999 when Acosta performed the Man’s Solo in Le Corsaire and in February 2000 when he performed the role of Franz in Ninette de Valois’ Coppélia. He featured in The Reluctant Ballet Dancer, a program in the Imagine series shown, presented by Alan Yentob, on BBC1 on July 9, 2003. He was also interviewed for the BBC’s HardTalk program, which was broadcast on Christmas Day 2003. In 2006, he was filmed in the BBC studios performing a dance from Tocororo, which was broadcast on the Newsnight program. He has also appeared on The Culture Show, Good Morning, BBC Breakfast, and The Andrew Marr Show. Sir David Frost interviewed him in 2009, and his latest interview on BBC’s HardTalk was broadcasted on June 2011.
Dance Cuba: Dreams of Flight premiered in 2004 at the Miami International Film Festival. The film was made by Cynthia Newport and featured Acosta and other former members of the National Ballet of Cuba.
Acosta also appeared as a main character in the Natalie Portman-directed segment of New York, I Love You. A feature film based on his life story is currently in development. He will also appear in another feature film entitled The Day of Flowers, shot principally in Cuba and set shortly for release.
Acosta performed a reworked version of Premieres in Manchester, London, Birmingham, and Belfast during the summer of 2011. He continues to work as a principal guest artist for the Royal Ballet, and several TV series projects are also currently in development.
Carlos Acosta Website
Carlos Acosta Foundation
Carlos Acosta—The Classical Farewell, Sadler’s Wells
Carlos Acosta: ‘Nobody who looks like me has ever played the roles I danced’, The Telegraph
Carlos Acosta in Cuba: a revolutionary movement, The Guardian
Carlos Acosta: A Classical Selection review – erotic tension in bold farewell, The Guardian
Carlos Acosta on why the classical ballet world needs new Romeos, BBC
No Way Home by Carlos Acosta, Harper Collins Publishers
Carlos Acosta: A Classical Farewell, Birmingham Hippodrome, The Arts Desk
Carlos Acosta: The Classical Farewell, Royal Albert Hall review: His whirling turns still wow an audience, Independent
What is Carlos Acosta’s secret?, What’s On Stage
Carlos Acosta – from Havana’s streets to the Royal Ballet
Don Quixote – Act I finale (Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta, The Royal Ballet)
Carlos Acosta’s final main stage curtain call as Principal Guest Artist of The Royal Ballet
The Frost Interview – Carlos Acosta: From pauper to prince
An introduction to Carlos Acosta’s Carmen (The Royal Ballet)
Carlos Acosta in Darcey’s Ballet Heroes