The bittersweet story of a Cuban ballet dancer’s rise to international fame.
Born in 1973 in a suburb of Havana, Acosta aspired to become a soccer star. His dream ended at age nine when his father Pedro, a stern disciplinarian, forced him to enroll in ballet school. An Afro-Cuban truck driver whose relationship with Acosta’s fair-skinned mother had scandalized her family, as a youth Pedro had been ejected from a whites-only cinema while watching a silent film about ballet. In a debut memoir noteworthy for its candor, energy and colorful sketches of life in Cuba, Acosta depicts the grueling world of ballet against the backdrop of the challenges he confronted in a country undergoing major upheaval during the 1990s. Triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union and resultant loss of economic aid, the era known in Cuba as the “Special Period” gave rise to massive food and gasoline shortages, daily power outages and a national despair that prompted thousands to flee the country on rough-hewn rafts. The winner at age 16 of a prestigious international ballet competition in Switzerland, Acosta was permitted by the Cuban government to perform as a guest artist with numerous dance companies, including the Houston Ballet. He writes poignantly that his elation about his career was deflated each time he boarded a plane and left his struggling family. Acosta’s chronicle of his efforts to integrate his success as a black ballet dancer with his complex feelings about his country and ambivalence about a profession he didn’t choose makes a lively, provocative read. Now based in London, he has been celebrated in recent years as the choreographer and lead dancer of Tocororo, a ballet inspired by the pain and passion of his upbringing in Cuba.
A fresh, authentic account of art, adversity and family.