Carlos Acosta, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

FROM the moment a spotlight hit Carlos Acosta the audience was mesmerised.

His undulating limbs entwined with his partner, telling a poetic story that reached even the tips of his fingers – hypnotic, raw and unexpected.

The ballet star’s production, On Before, is deliciously intimate as he uses his body to portray painful emotion and a story of love and loss.

Fusing different elements of dance, experimenting with lighting to blur his body as it spins and a concoction of different musical genres as well as an artistic film of the dancers immersed in water, Acosta’s passion for the imaginative is contagious.

The show is a tribute to his talents and those of his partner, Royal Ballet principal dancer, Zenaida Yanowsky, as they hit the Mayflower Theatre stage for only two nights.

With glimpses of breakdancing, contemporary ballet, spellbinding armography and even elements of mime and contortion, the show is a fabulous example of Acosta’s masterful presence on stage.

He has collaborated with acclaimed choreographers, Will Tuckett, Miguel Altunaga, Yuri Yanowsky, Russell Maliphant, Kim Brandstrup, Edwaard Liang and George Cespedes to produce a portfolio of unique dances.

The narrative can be left to interpretation but as director and co-choreographer, Acosta wrote it after his mother died in 2010 as a tribute to her and it may also be his swan song, as the 41-year-old recently announced his retirement from the classical repertoire.

It is a tribute like no other that will be hard to match, as the great Latin dancer and Yanowsky embark on a journey of heartbreak, adoration and eventually death, which captures the public imagination.

As partners they are equal, matching each other in strength and have bundles of chemistry, performing call and response scenes to create a series of challenging works of art.

The whole production has an air of ethereal spirituality to it, as members of Southampton Choral Society wander aimlessly in between sets, wearing black and walking through candlelight to resemble death, which eventually claims the dancers in their final act.

On Before is a gut-wrenching, sit at the edge of your seat, gasp with excitement and ultimately thrilling experience and even with his retirement looming, it’s an exciting prospect of what could be to come as Acosta unleashes his true gift for capturing an audience.

Emily Ford