For those bereft at the recent retirement of everyone’s favourite Cuban ballerina Carlos Acosta, fear not. The English National Ballet’s production of La Corsaire is currently playing host to three Cuban male dancers, two who actually trained at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba including Carlos’s nephew Yonah Acosta. Add to that American Brooklyn Mack and you have a production packed full of young and athletic male talent, making La Corsaire a swashbuckling romp, the kind to turn every sceptic into a fan of classical ballet.
La Corsaire, losely based on the 1814 poem by Lord Byron of the same name, tells the story of Conrad’s expedition to save his love Medora. Conrad and his band of daring pirates have to sail across the high seas to save harem girl Medora from being sold into the arms of Pasha. To complicate matters Conrad then faces mutiny and betrayal among the ranks and eventual shipwreck. It is a thrilling tale of passion, love and betrayal set amongst swashbuckling pirates, captive maidens and rich princes. I’m not sure ballet has ever seemed so dastardly.
La Corsaire is as every bit as heart-thumping as the synopsis would suggest and the tale gives way for the most thrilling of choreography as the dancers leap and spin their way through three acts. As we arrive in the bazaar in Act 1, the harem girls are asked to perform for the Pasha, and each of the soloists amaze in turn with a selection of intricate turns and pirouettes designed to impress. Similarly Act 2 contains a section in which Conrad, Medora and Ali perform to the rest of the slave girls and pirates in the cave. This gives way to a truly spectacular section where each dancer performs an increasingly complex array of spins, leaps, and jumps. Particular attention must be drawn to junior soloist Cesear Corrales, who, despite only being 19, not only kept up with the more experienced solosits, but perhaps outperformed them. Certainly his flashy role with its almost impossible leaps earned him the loudest cheer of all.
The story certainly lends itself to this showy choreography and with the talent on show in the English National Ballet it is not hard to be impressed. This oriental fantasy epic complete with sword fighting, gun battles, opium infused dreams and shipwrecks is certainly one of the more action packed ballets on offer. With its spectacularly glitzy costumes and the talent that Tamara Rojo has compiled as artistic director, and indeed with Rojo herself, it is hard not to be completely swept away by the sheer fun of it all.