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By Joel Luks
Culture Map, Houston
January 6, 2014

Carlos Acosta was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year Honours 2014 list (photo © Carlos Acosta)When a former Houston Ballet cavalier penned his New Year’s resolutions for 2014, we are sure that becoming a Commander of the Order of the British Empire [CBE] wasn’t on his list.

What an honor for Carlos Yunior Acosta Quesada. For his service to the world of ballet, the British-Cuban dancer of African descent was one of 1,195 candidates recognized by Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year Honours index, a distinction reserved for those who have made remarkable contributions across the United Kingdom.

Some say that his rise began in the Bayou City [popular nickname for the city of Houston, Texas].

After performing with the English National Ballet and the National Ballet of Cuba, Acosta was invited by former Houston Ballet artistic director Ben Stevenson to join Houston’s troupe as principal in 1993. He made his American debut in the role of the Prince in Stevenson’s own version of The Nutcracker.

In pairing Acosta with ballerina Lauren Anderson, Stevenson forged an unstoppable pair who earned considerable esteem from national critics and local balletomanes, also making the Houston Ballet one of the first professional ballet companies that cast prominent roles with dancers of African provenance.

During his five-year tenure in Houston, Acosta is remembered for Basilio in Don Quixote, the Chosen One in The Rite of Spring and Solor in La Bayadère, roles that catapulted his career toward international stardom. He has been hailed for his explosive passion, lyrical athleticism and hypnotic charisma.

For Acosta’s interpretation of Misgir in the premiere of Stevenson’s The Snow Maiden in 1998, alongside the famed Nina Ananiashvili, reviewers described the “sensational male star” as one who possesses “natural virtuosity and noble style.”

That same year, Acosta joined the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden. He’s been a guest artist with the American Ballet Theatre, the Metropolitan Opera, the Australian Ballet and so on and so no. His life was featured in CBS News’ 60 Minutes, BBC’s HardTalk and the film Dance Cuba, Dreams of Flight.

As an author, Acosta’s autobiography, No Way Home – A Cuban Dancer’s Story, poetically portrays his life growing up poor with 11 siblings in Havana. In October, Acosta released Pig’s Foot, a novel set in his homeland that weaves around a family’s search for identity and truth.

Acosta’s time in Houston is remembered with fondness. Is it time for him to make a Bayou City appearance?

© 2014 CultureMap LLC

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Carlos Acosta: From pauper to prince

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