Carlos Acosta was born in Havana. He trained at the National Ballet School of Cuba and won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne (1990). He was a principal with ENB (1991–2), danced with National Ballet of Cuba under Alicia Alonso (1992–3) and was a principal with Houston Ballet under Ben Stevenson (1993–8). He joined The Royal Ballet in 1998 and became a Principal Guest Artist in 2003. He appears worldwide with companies including ABT, Paris Opera Ballet, Kirov, Bolshoi and Australian Ballet.
Acosta’s performances with The Royal Ballet include Principal roles in works by Ashton, MacMillan, Balanchine, Robbins and Tudor, among others. He has also created several roles in contemporary ballets both with The Royal Ballet and elsewhere, in works by choreographers including Ben Stevenson, Ashley Page and Kim Brandstrup. He was instrumental in taking The Royal Ballet on tour to Havana in 2009 and starred in the Company’s performances of Romeo and Juliet at The O2 Arena in June 2011, dancing Romeo opposite Tamara Rojo as Juliet. He has given acclaimed performances in the title role in Khachaturian’s Spartacus in Moscow, London and Paris with the Bolshoi.
He has staged several shows across Europe featuring both classical and contemporary repertory, including his own choreography and the work of choreographers from his native Cuba. Shows for Sadler’s Wells include the successful semi-autobiographical Tocororo in 2004 and Carlos Acosta with Guests from The Royal Ballet in 2006, for which he won the 2007 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance for his performances. He has produced and choreographed productions of Don Quixote and Carmen for the Royal Ballet, performances of the latter of which were his last classical performances for the Company after more than 17 years. He continues to choreograph his own and other productions including the recent revival of Guys and Dolls and since his retirement from the Royal Ballet has also set up his own dance company in Cuba – Acosta Danza – to develop the next generation of dancers and choreographers from his homeland.
Acosta has also appeared on screen as an actor in the feature films New York, I Love You and Day of the Flowers. His autobiography No Way Home was published in October 2007 by Harper Collins in the UK and Scribner in the USA, and a feature film based on his life story begins shooting towards the end of 2017. His debut novel Pig’s Foot, was included as one of the Waterstones Eleven of the most promising works of debut fiction, and was published in October 2013 by Bloomsbury.
In the 2014 New Year’s Honours List Carlos was awarded the CBE, capping the end of a remarkable year which saw him stage a new production of Don Quixote at the Royal Opera House, release his debut fiction novel, Pig’s Foot through Bloomsbury, and choreographing a new production of Guys and Dolls. In the National Dance Awards 2015, Carlos was awarded the De Valois Award for Lifetime Achievement.
The culture and history of Carlos’ homeland have been important influences throughout his career and will continue to be so as he has not only established his own dance company – Acosta Danza – in Havana, but has also created the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation. The Foundation has been created with the dream of giving young dancers and choreographers the opportunities he benefited from by providing an education platform, free at the point of delivery, where they can come to express talents which might not otherwise be seen or heard whilst receiving world class training in an inspirational setting. The first step in this process was the creation of the Acosta Danza Academy which opened its doors in Havana for the first time in September 2017 to its first intake of aspiring and talented young Cuban students, each embarking on the first of a three-year course and who will be joined by a further intake of Cuban and international students in September 2018.