Acosta Danza Evolution ft. Carlos Acosta – Festival Theatre

Principle Artistic Direction by Carlos Acosta

Dance doesn’t solely comprise movement, while the central aspect in a medium without voice, the ability to communicate with an audience through rhythm, music, construct and the beauty of abstract storytelling is paramount. Acosta Danza Evolution is the future of the industry, illustrating their imaginative capabilities with four pieces which, while sharing mirthful talent and passion, couldn’t be more different from one another.

Playing to their narrative strengths, Acosta retells less-recognisable stories. With the playwrighting and choreography of Adrian Silver, Sidi Larbi Cheraoui or Steven Brett, it places audiences on an even keel. Those familiar with dance may have advantages understanding technique, but there is such fresh material from the company that a sense of wonder pervades over veterans just as much as those new to the art form. Dance companies take chances to survive, or risk fading into pleasant, though archaic formats. Acosta Danza Evolution takes conceptual versatility and launches it into the air – rarely, has such amalgam of unique concepts found themselves on the same stage. From the magenta ribbons of zen-like trances, into deep haunting woodlands’ interpretations, and then to the tie-baring rockers of the Rolling Stones’ Lady Jane or Sympathy for the Devil.

Light and shade are mere toys for the artistry on show, bending the resolute which defy traditional movement, particularly for this evening’s triumphs – Satori and Faun. Never has human touch felt so valuable, given a place at the peak of the sensory exhibition as performers meld into one another’s rhythm. Two dancers, one flow, it’s staggering the synchronicity they accomplish – not only with each other but with the score. A composition which echoes the backdrop for Faun, an uncomfortable mixture of unease, yet natural wonder. A woodland setting, with a blanketing fog concealing something hidden in the distance.

Concise in colour, hypnotic in construct, designers Angelo Alberto, Karen Young, Hussein Chalayan and Marian Bruce highlight dancers with precision, straying from flash or morbid displays of tactless shades. Where utilising colour, such as the crimson trim of a dress, an injection of flavour, it’s acutely painful to consider how much thought is in the ideas process of design choices, which work subtle splendours and draw attention. Nowhere is this clearer than a simple magenta skirt, which echoes the Cuban tones of a Zapateo or Salsa. It is in the same performance, where Zeleydi Crespo’s attitude, form and costume conjures an early-Grace Jones stance of female authority. Her movements proud, strong with a paradoxical delicacy in footing.

Fiercely proud, Acosta Danza fuses their Cuban steps with pigeon-foots of Swedish, Eastern Germany, Russia and predominately European dance movement, with an obvious dash of ballet for good measure. With roots in African and Cuban dance, there’s an intensity to all four of these evenings performances, but they couldn’t be further apart in emotional context or choreography. The gravity-Morpheuslike defiance of Satori is in polar opposition to the grounded, rocker ballad battle of the sexes that is the celebration of modern music RoosterSatori’s study of stagnation, momentum through choreography are only complimented with the original score from Pepe Gavilondo’s combination of mesmerising folk, strikes against the electronic acoustics.

In 2020, Carlos Acosta will succeed David Bintley as artistic director of the Birmingham Royal ballet, gracing this evenings production with a performance. Acosta and fellow dancers stitch a needle-like precision of ballet steps, tempering them with club movements, balancing a comedic narrative throughout Rooster, demonstrating how lucky the company will be in the coming years.

Acosta Danza Evolution showcases its namesake profoundly: evolution. Paying tribute to the origins of movement, the bedrock of and African and European dance, unearthing them, throwing them to the winds to watch which will flutter into renewed life. If you have had the pleasure of seeing dance in a form such as this, it is enviable – for Acosta Danza stand apart from various troupes as innovative, bold, and yet offer a profoundly humorous approach to the art which feels akin to family. It may seek to convey mysticism, zen and even abject fear, but couldn’t be further from a welcoming atmosphere. It cannot be stated enough; whether a veteran twinkle-toes or cursed with two left feet, Evolution will enthral you.

Acosta Danza Evolution runs until November 2nd at Festival Theatre Edinburgh, and then continues on tour:

Photo Credit – Enrique Smith Soto, Yuris Norido and Panchito Gonzles

Donbass @ The Filmhouse

Video right:
Sergei Loznitsa

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa

Produced with Germany France Ukraine Netherlands Romania/

Run time: 110 mins

Thriving amidst the shattered chaos of Eastern Ukraine and Russia, Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa’snewest cinematic release continues his obsession into the social breakdown of the violent suppression. Shot as a documentary styled black-comedy, Donbass was selected open the Un Certain Regard of the 2018 Cannes film festival.

The region of Donbass exists in two states of thinking regarding the Russian supported Donetsk People’s Republic. A struggle exists in the complex reverence for the aggressive saviour from fascism during the Second World War, yet at the same time, there is a worry of pro-Russian separatists. Particularly for an audience unfamiliar with the political climate of Eastern Ukraine, Loznitsa manages to compose enough detail while maintaining audience interest in an ongoing, if underreported conflict.

Despite misconceptions as a semi-documentary, Donbass is not entirely set around political commentary. Marketed as a black comedy it leans heavier into the grim than that of levity. Comedy is found more in surrealness in how lies are truth and hatred is everyday life. It is a mesmerizing piece not only on politics or war but on the children of these two; propaganda and post-truth environment. War is a utility for violence but also an excuse for the blanket abuse of the working class. Echoing a post-truth age, we have zero effort in envisioning all but one scene as taken directly from headlines. Depending on the scenario we move from handheld to documentary filmmaking. Oleg Mutu’s cinematography is crafted, not as propaganda, but similar in techniques to highlight the issue and make it digestible for the audience.

Truth is a scarce resource. A notion Loznitsa strikes home in the opening shot, a deliberately assembled handheld shaky cam. We follow the actors through a single shot scene until reaching the news team. Donbass starts not with a crash of violence but with a make-up trailer. Actors preparing for an unknown shoot.  The arrival of armed enforcements confirms the nature of these performers. Hurried to the scene of a bombing, the now grieving neighbours perpetuate the essence of ‘fake news’ as they sell their paid story.

Of the many themes shared across the film, the primary is that of us/them. This leads to the most gut-churning realisation in how accessible the film is. How clear we find it to understand the rot of a nation. A particularly uncomfortable scene is exquisitely performed as a young man attempts to reclaim his stolen car, only for his cries for help to be met with strongarm manipulation to ‘donate’ his vehicle for ‘us,’ failure to do so a sign of his siding with ‘them.’

Loznitsa continues his trait from A Gentle Creature of capturing the microscopic details of anguish in a person’s face, though this ability is lost in one sequence. In a film in which war is a central catalyst, the loudness can overblow the pathos – losing out on quieter moments to allow significance to settle.  Mutu’s cinematography allows perfectly acceptable shots to uncomfortably linger. Nowhere is this more evident than with the exertion of effort to maintain interest during a wedding. It’s the weakest portion of the film, realism stretched outside the confines of belief, something which despite the sensationalism of the movie so far hasn’t been broken.

Shot in an engrossing manner, Donbass is formed with a scatter effect of hard-hitting sequences. Of the various vignettes, only a couple fail to hit their mark. Loznitsa’s depictions of shame beatings, bomb shelters and assassinations stand as dark reminders against exaggerated comedic reality. Uniting the two concepts well, Donbass finds itself as a deeply engrossing film, where fury and despair sit alongside absurdist humour.

Review originally posted for Wee Review: