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The Frost Interview

Carlos Acosta: From pauper to prince

Sir David Frost travels to Havana, Cuba, to meet the world's most celebrated male ballet dancer in his homeland.
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2012 08:48

In this episode of The Frost Interview, Sir David Frost travels to Havana, Cuba, to learn how a boy who used to run the streets barefoot became the world's most talented ballet dancer.

Carlos Acosta's family was desperately poor. Pedro, his father, had fallen in love with ballet when as a young man, he had sneaked into a cinema that was reserved for whites to watch grainy pictures of ballet dancers.

When Pedro heard that Cuba's ballet schools offered free food, he sent his son Carlos off to ballet school.

Reluctant at first, the young Acosta quickly thrived, and by the age of 16 he was already internationally renowned.

"I wanted to become a footballer ... but obviously my father had different plans," Acosta tells Sir David.

"That's the beauty of my life ... How can a truck driver have this will to get his son to become a ballet dancer when most fathers would like their son to become something else?"

He speaks to Sir David about how it felt to be an impoverished outsider in a world generally reserved for the privileged, and what it meant to his family when he achieved a level of success which no one could have ever dreamed of.

Growing up in Cuba, Acosta says: "There was a sense of community in the 1980s that was just wonderful, because you could just go next door and talk to a neighbour and the neighbour might lend you some eggs or something and you repay the eggs once you get something."

Sir David shows Acosta clips of himself returning years later to Havana as principle dancer with the Royal Ballet, and we see the delight on his face as he relives the experience of bringing one of the world's premiere ballet companies to Havana.

And of the Cuban love of dance, he says: "It's the sun, the sea, the sky, it's happiness, and also it's something that we inherit because you open your eyes and you see your father and your mother dancing around in the background, dancing while they're cooking. You know they say they are even dancing when they walk. It is wonderful ... Everything in our culture inspires us to dance."

Acosta also tells Sir David of his plans to help realise the long-held Cuban dream of an architecturally-outstanding, world-class ballet school forming part of a City of the Arts on the grounds of a former golf club.



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