A biopic of dancer and choreographer Carlos Acosta. Such a beautiful film. It tells his life and journey alongside the actual Carlos Acosta dancing and directing his own pieces based on each period in his life. I just loved this mode of storytelling because with each struggle, you are seeing the actual outcome that they’re fighting for. Dance is not an abstract, it’s there for you to see what he achieved.
A big theme in this film is dislocation. Geographically, because he grew up in Cuba but had to travel the world to get his education. Socially, because his family struggle by in poverty but he ends up in a relatively privileged position living in London. And also within the family bonds, as the son struggles with the life that his father has chosen for him, a path he would not have picked but which has had undeniable benefits.
Race is also a big theme throughout the movie. His father pushes him so hard because he wants to see Carlos break down barriers, which he does. He becomes the first black dancer to play lead in a number of roles, including Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. If that doesn’t sound like much, Carlos himself is biracial, and one incident in the film shows his mother’s family emigrating to America and offering to take her and her light-skinned daughter, but not her 2 children that have inherited their father’s dark skin. So for Carlos to play Romeo and kiss a white woman on stage and have everyone applaud is kind of a big deal.
Having just seen White Crow last night, it was a refreshing change in Yuli to see a dancer who was not driven, not ambitious, not consumed with a need to dance. As a child he shirks and bunks off and rebels. It is the decisions and sacrafices of others who put him in dance school and it is only once he is there, alone without family or friends, that dance becomes all he has.
After Yuli, Girl and White Crow, one thing I’ve learned about ballet is that to be good at it, it must destroy the rest of your life. Everyone in ballet needs to chill.