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Documentary made by William Trevitt and Michael Nunn (ex-Royal Ballet, aka the Ballet Boyz). Carlos Acosta and the Royal Ballet dance in Havana, Cuba.

100 dancers, 50 backstage staff, costumes, sets, lights, 2 sprung dance floors, a generator…and they had trouble getting into the containers! Marianela Nunez went down with swine flu. Jonathan Cope performed 2 years into his retirement. A violinist performed on stage with his 1735-vintage instrument, which has a beautiful rich tone. Acosta danced Manon with Tamara Rojo.

Rojo has some kind of physical therapy and the fact that her leg is manipulated in a sweep from normal through 90 degrees to 180 degrees, i.e. with the ankle by her ear, without any apparent strain or discomfort, amazes me.

Roberto the barber is a huge ballet fan…”Ballet’s so popular here that people sometimes queue for weeks to see it.” The amazing queue for Manon tickets…”Ballet is culture. It makes us happy.” Why don’t we have that attitude in Australia?!

Opening night: Wayne McGregor’s Chroma: flesh-coloured singlets and pants, bare stage with large rectangular opening at the back, groups with urgent-sounding music, a pas de deux with more limpid piano music…Dyad 1929 (Australian Ballet) has given me some idea of McGregor’s work.

Rupert Pennefather has a back injury, so 45 year old Jonathan Cope comes out of retirement to dance Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country. I wish we could see it in Australia! Not perhaps with the incredibly beaky but still very watchable Cope, mostly known to me through film, often with Darcey Bussell…gorgeous music, Chopin arranged by John Lanchbery. I’d love to see the full ballet.

The final section of the evening is to be a dazzling array of excerpts…Acosta and Rojo in Le Corsaire…that silly feathered and jewelled headband! Then the generator fails. The lighting setup has to be reduced. Bits and pieces I find difficulty in recognising as I don’t know the Royal Ballet’s repertoire that well…something with 3 boys in white shirts and black trousers plus the aforementioned violinist, a bit that looks like Romeo and Juliet, something Eastern-costumed (La Bayadere?), a Giselle solo? Rojo and Cuban Joel Carreno in the Don Quixote pas de deux – she holds an arabesque en pointe and gets cheers from the audience, Cuban ballerina Viengsay Valdes and Thiago Soares in the Odile pas de deux from Swan Lake – again rapturously received by the audience.

Finally Acosta and Rojo in “what the entire country’s been waiting for”: Le Corsaire. The screams at his entry, indeed his every move, are amazing. Costume does her no favours, unlike the gorgeous black lace one for Kitri. His is more straight-leg trousers than the baggy pants I associate with this piece – and the waistband’s so tight it looks like his tummy’s bulging and he has love-handles (which he so doesn’t). But my golly gosh! Athleticism and artistry! She looks awfully tense the whole time though.

The dancers are bussed, still in makeup and costume, to the main square where they take bows in front of thousands of Havaneros (?) who’ve been watching on a video screen. Acosta, who’s put a hoodie vest on over his string almost-top, thanks the crowd.

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