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Carlos Acosta to be next director of Birmingham Royal Ballet


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Just announced - he will take up his new job in January 2020.

Press release:

CARLOS ACOSTA CBE APPOINTED AS NEW DIRECTOR OF BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET

Birmingham Royal Ballet is delighted to announce that internationally renowned Carlos Acosta CBE has been appointed as its new Director. He will take up his appointment in January 2020.

The appointment follows an open competition and extensive international search by Birmingham Royal Ballet Board, supported by an expert panel of leading figures in the dance world. It follows the news that David Bintley CBE, the current Director, will be standing down as Director in July 2019 at the end of the current season. The new Director will work alongside the company’s Chief Executive, Caroline Miller OBE who was appointed on a permanent basis just before Christmas.

Carlos Acosta CBE, said:It is a tremendous honour and privilege to have been appointed to lead Birmingham Royal Ballet. I am a great admirer of its heritage and of what David Bintley has done to establish it as one of the country’s leading classical ballet companies, following on from the wonderful foundations laid down by Sir Peter Wright. My ambition is to build on its classical traditions, to expand its repertoire and to reach out to new and more diverse audiences. I want to define what it is to be a world leading classical ballet company in the 21st century.”   

Chair of Birmingham Royal Ballet Sir David Normington GCB, said: “This is a great moment for Birmingham Royal Ballet. We have secured the greatest male dancer of his generation to be our new Director. I know he will bring us his legendary artistry, energy and charisma, and enable us to connect with new audiences, particularly in Birmingham. It is a statement to the whole dance world that, building on David Bintley’s great legacy, Birmingham Royal Ballet intends to remain a major force for classical ballet in the UK and beyond.” 

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Carlos Acosta CBE as the new Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, with his wealth of experience and knowledge from the international world of dance.

Birmingham Royal Ballet is an exceptional company, with an international reputation for the artistic quality of its work, and as Carlos takes to the helm, we’d like to pay tribute to the commitment, contribution and charisma of David Bintley, who leaves behind him an extraordinary legacy. We look forward to seeing Carlos build on this legacy, and to the company continuing to delight audiences with their array of classical and ground-breaking ballets.”
 
Born in Havana, the youngest of 11 children in an impoverished family, Acosta went on to train at the National Ballet School of Cuba, winning the prestigious Prix de Lausanne at the age of 16, before enjoying a celebrated 30-year career in dance with many of the world’s leading ballet companies. He was a Principal with the Royal Ballet for 17 years and danced all the major classical, and many contemporary roles. He is the greatest male dancer of his generation and, in many people’s eyes, one of the greatest dancers of all time.

Since retiring from the Royal Ballet he has founded his Cuban dance company Acosta Danza and established his own dance academy in Havana which opened its doors to its first students in September 2017. His 2007 autobiography No Way Home told the extraordinary story of his progress from the poorest of beginnings in Cuba to world ballet star and became a UK bestseller. His many awards include an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, a Prix Benois de la Danse, an Outstanding Achievement Award at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards and the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award from the Royal Academy of Dance in recognition of his standing as one of the most influential figures in dance today.

 

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Acosta's appointment will certainly give the company a higher profile than it has at present. It might even persuade the critics to make the occasional visit to Brum rather than waiting  until the company comes to London to write about its dancers and their performances. It will be interesting to see to what extent this appointment  will produce changes in the company's core repertory and its artistic identity. It almost certainly means that fewer Bintley ballets will be performed than at present but will Acosta be tempted to stage more works himself ? His work with the RB does not exactly instil confidence in his skills and judgement as a stager or choreographer.  I can't help wondering what Acosta's directorship will mean for the future of the company's important historic repertory which includes ballets created by De Valois and Ashton which were revived after years of neglect during the directorships of Sir Peter Wright and David Bintley ?

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The higher profile has just manifested itself. As I posted my latest contribution Acosta's appointment  was announced on the BBC Radio 4's seven o'clock news which only ever mentions the more important news headlines. I don't think that Kevin O'Hare's appointment as Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet was deemed worthy of mention as a headline. In fact I doubt that his appointment made it into any BBC news programme at all, not even on BBC Radio Humberside which serves his home town.

It would seem that Acosta has announced that he wishes " to attract a new and more diverse audience to the ballet". I know that the search for the " new more diverse audience" is the ballet equivalent of the holy grail and that every artistic director is hoping to find it but somehow it does not sound like a trite cliché when Acosta is reported to have said it. I have a feeling that he might just succeed where others have failed simply because of who he is. But there is more to it than that. It is all too easy for a non specialist journalists, on the rare occasion that they write a story about classical ballet, to produce a non-article filling it with clichés and standard reference points such as the cost of the most expensive seats, all of which contributes to the idea that ballet can, and should be dismissed as an elite and somewhat esoteric artform, which could never be of interest to ordinary people. It is just much more difficult, if not impossible, to do that when writing or making a news item about Acosta. As Mashinka says of Acosta "when it comes to classicism he keeps the faith" which should mean that there is a great deal to look forward to from BRB in the future.

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan
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1 hour ago, Ashton Fan said:

I don't think that Kevin O'Hare's appointment as Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet was deemed worthy of mention as a headline

Might that be because although a fine dancer, he didn't enjoy an international career nor have a second career as a writer of note?  I've finally got around to reading Acosta's novel, Pigs Foot, and it certainly deserved all the plaudits.  Having a high profile personality in charge will do the company no harm at all.

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11 hours ago, Mashinka said:

Might that be because although a fine dancer, he didn't enjoy an international career nor have a second career as a writer of note?  I've finally got around to reading Acosta's novel, Pigs Foot, and it certainly deserved all the plaudits.  Having a high profile personality in charge will do the company no harm at all.

I agree Mab.  

Having been doing searches on the internet this morning all the VERY MANY articles I have found are nothing more than rehashes of the official press release (which is very lazy reporting).

It should be very interesting and exciting days ahead for BRB (as long as he doesn't inflict Carmen on the company!). 

 

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Mashinka I agree with you about the reason for Acosta's appointment as AD being deemed newsworthy. His celebrity will of course raise the profile of the company he will lead ; his presence will ensure that the company's work is given more coverage than it enjoys at present but his popularity does not alter the harsh financial climate in which his company will be operating. His presence may boost goodwill for the company and attract more sponsorship for its work  but he will be expanding his company's repertory and reaching out to his new audience in an economic and financial climate which is far more challenging than the ones in which Sir Peter Wright and David Bintley were working.

Acosta has said that he wishes to expand the company's repertory and it will be interesting to see if he can resist the temptation to stage his Carmen for BRB as the size of the cast needed for it is one which would not challenge the company's resources and it would be a relatively cheap addition to its repertory. Staging new productions is expensive and the goodwill and sponsorship which his appointment will generate could dry up very quickly if he makes major mistakes about new commissions or additions to the company's repertory; makes too many mistakes about revivals; the construction of a season's programme or the contents of individual mixed bills. The honeymoon period which a new director can expect to enjoy during his first couple of seasons can be brought to an abrupt end by decisions and actions which display a lack of sensitivity to a company's  established corporate culture and its artistic identity. It is a question of judging the amount of change that an established organisation can absorb in a short space of time without alienating its dancers, its support staff or its established audience. The point here is that BRB is not simply an organisation which dates its foundation to the year the company moved to Birmingham. If you look for the origins of BRB's artistic identity and its corporate "foundation myth" you have to go back beyond the establishment of de Valois' Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet to the foundation of the Royal Ballet itself. 

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan
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I hate be the discordant sound here but I'm sure I'll voice what many might be thinking. When picking a head of a ballet company I pretty much agree with what Clifford has been voicing on his controversial videos. Shouldn't the BB get someone more in line with the tradition of this troupe's past...? And even more... couldn't they get a British to really carry on this British ballet company which I assume has its own particularities and style that might make it unique and different from, let's say, a Cuban or a Russian company..? It is not a secret that ballet is becoming more and more globalized, and that more and more the RB is seeing less of Ashton, ABT even less of Tudor or that the Mariinsky doesn't look-(to me)- as the current ultimate repository of Petipa. So...in line with what Clifford always repeats... wouldn't it be more appropriate to get someone older...with more experience with this company's repertoire and style...? To be honest....I was hoping Acosta would soon substitute Alonso, who's close to be 100 already. He seemed the perfect candidate to reinvigorate the Cuban company which looks stucked in 1955.

Just sayin'....

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Not discordant at all, that is a very valid point of view.  The first thing to bear in mind is that we don't know the names of the other applicants for the job, it could be that Acosta was head and shoulders above the others in terms of his suitability.

Carlos Acosta first set foot on the ROH stage at the tender age of eighteen, dancing a jazz number at a charity gala and shortly after he went to English National Ballet before eventually joining the RB, so he has been dancing in Britain for well over twenty years.  He has danced Ashton and MacMillan, still the bedrock of the two RB companies, he has also worked with the contemporary choreographers here.  In addition he now has family ties to the UK.  So in terms of his career he is hardly an outsider.

I take your point about the ballet In Cuba, but over the years there have been a number of high profile Cuban dancers, surely at least one might have directorial abilities.

 

Edited by Mashinka
typo
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