Sunday, June 22, 2008

book review: no way home by carlos acosta

No Way Home by Carlos Acosta is the second memoir on my list. For those paying attention, alphabetically it came first, but it took time to get it in at the library. The Entertainment Weekly memoir list noted it as a childhood memoir: grew up "in a Havana slum", but Acosta's memoir is so much more than that. In many ways his childhood would have been completely ordinary: he shared experiences with the other precocious young children in his neighborhood. He took to break dancing and adored soccer. In fact, if Acosta hadn't been quite so predisposed to careless choices and trouble making in his early days, his father might not have pushed him into ballet school. The world should be glad Acosta messed up just enough to get there.

Today, Acosta is one of the world's most famous ballerinos. He's choreographed a contemporary ballet based on his Cuban childhood. I admit I love ballet, especially contemporary ballet (I am a Center Stage devotee), far more than the average reader, but this book is far more than just a ballet story or a Cuban story. Acosta's tale is certainly remarkable, but he is perhaps the most remarkable part of the story. He is proud without being arrogant, and he is thankful and appreciative for all of his life experiences. He is a brilliant dancer and a brilliant human. His writing is perhaps not brilliant, but it's fine. The story's brilliance shines through.

The book begins in childhood, and I learned so mcuh about life in Cuba. The reader follows Acosta around the world as he dances, a feat that seems impossible in the first part of the book. It's only refreshing because one knows he makes it. Otherwise, his early years might be endlessly depressing. Acosta's honesty about his own missteps is wonderful. No Way Home is a satisfying, enlightening read, and for those of us stateside who haven't had the chance to see Tocororo, it's a gem. My one complaint comes from it being only a book. Although Acosta describes ballet with such passion and beauty, I kept finding myself pulling up youtube clips of him dancing. I wanted a more interactive experience. Whether you read No Way Home or not, it's definitely worth checking out some of these clips. My favorite, of course, is from Tocororo.

1 comment:

  1. As a former dancer myself I must say that Carlos Acosta has dance technique that we could only dream about back in my generation. None of us could do those demanding steps, not even the top ballet stars could. They were unknown. Carlos has even extended the technique beyond Nureyev and Baryshnikov. You Tube has given us a chance to see these marvels, otherwise hidden if you don't live in NY, London, Moscow, etc. It's Dancing as it should be!

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