Carlos Acosta’s Carmen and Gravity Fatigue review

Carmen at the Royal Opera House and Gravity Fatigue at Sadler's Wells reviewed

Gravity Fatigue, Sadler’s Wells

Invention and imagination thrive, however, at Sadler’s Wells where Gravity Fatigue, a striking collaboration between the fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, serving as director and designer, and the Belgian choreographer Damien Jalet erased the distinction between their respective arts in an elegant series of sleek abstract vignettes. Each short scene addressed the subjects that concern them both: the interplay between shape, weight, balance, energy and purpose that define a garment and a dance.

Nearly naked figures acted as sculpted counterweights, supporting one another in lengths of stretched elastic. Precise as clockwork as they jigged soberly side by side, three dancers turned their dark coats inside out to transform themselves into spangled comets spinning along crisscrossing paths. A vertical line of bodies shattered at breakneck speed into rigid poses flung across the stage like a stop-action image of one continuous movement.

Gone in a flash after four performances, this work left intriguing questions and stunning impressions behind. Let’s hope it will return.

Carmen, The Royal Opera House

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New in 1960, Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet The Invitation included a painfully graphic rape, danced by fully clothed and committed performers, to which the Royal Ballet’s director, audience and board all objected vehemently. It’s easier to depict sex on the ballet stage today. Nobody protests, and instructing the dancers to kiss or strip can pass for creativity.

As his farewell to the Royal Ballet, Carlos Acosta has choreographed a production of Carmen that features fondling, groping, crawling, kissing…even some breakaway trousers for the men. Because the banal movement and superficial characterizations provide no clues to the links between them, they merely strand the dancers and the onstage singers and musicians in an aimless welter of lust.

Mr. Acosta has proved his brilliance as a performer over the course of many years, so it doesn’t matter that he lacks choreographic skill; choreographers whose work will survive time and artistic trends are impossible to train and harder to find than gifted dancers. What matters is that the Royal Ballet imposed neither taste, artistic judgment nor common sense on these tawdry clichés while allowing Mr. Acosta’s well-deserved reputation to justify their presentation, and draw a crowd.

Carmen remains in repertory until 12 November, when it will be screened in the ROH Live Cinema season.

Mr. Acosta and his colleagues revisit highlights of his splendid career in A Classical Selection at the Coliseum, 8-13 December.