Carlos Acosta – On Before @ Mayflower, Southampton


There’s a sense of anticipation that overtakes you when you just know the performance you are about to witness will be something special. I’ve been longing to see Carlos Acosta dance for some years now and when I discovered he’d be performing the very personal On Before at the Mayflower I knew I’d have to be in the audience.

I decided to go into this performance open-minded for a change (normally I’ll do a fair bit of research before seeing a performance) and let the dance tell any story that existed here. From the off it was clear that the thread holding a series of disparate dances together was watching a passionate relationship disintegrate. To tell a story like this without words can be difficult but thankfully Acosta is a master at using movement to convey a message and he’s matched by the wonderful Zenaida Yanowsky in this regard.

They blend beautifully in the titular opening dance, but come into their own with sole performances. Acosta’s first solo, the frenetic Memoria sets the stage alight. Contained in a small square of light he contorts, twists and jerks in a manner that is reminiscent of a capoeira master. The sense of contained energy is palpable and as the pace ups and the movement becomes ever more aggressive I realise I’ve never heard an audience quite so silent.

Yanowsky reappears in Sirin a piece created for her and choreographed by her brother Yuri. She’s like a caged bird, longing to fly but at the same time afraid of the world outside. It paints a beautifully sad picture of the two characters we’re following.

The production makes use of sound and visuals to startling effect as the story plays out, drops of rain are projected across the stage, the two dancers moving among them before pre-recorded video fills our eyes with close ups of the rippling muscles in their movement. The finale is accompanied by the Southampton Choral Society who have drifted through the performance observing, but never intervening, in the often mesmeric movement in front of them.

This then is a masterclass in movement and I for one left the theatre exhilarated. I may not know much about dance, but I understand enough to know this was a special evening and along with the rest of the audience I was lucky enough to see two dancers at the top of their game!




Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about theatre, but also enjoys covering sport, especially rugby.

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