EVEN WHEN HE’S STANDING STOCK-STILL, Carlos Acosta’s body seems on the verge of movement. His shoulders are thrown back; his head and backbone meet in graceful equipoise; the muscles in his thighs and calves stand out in supple definition. He appears utterly relaxed and at the same time ready to spring upward in one of the extravagant leaps that so electrify audiences. Since 1993 the sexy young Cuban has been a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet, garnering bouquets from the critics, who call him “spellbinding” and compare him with Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And as each performance has trumped the previous one, the question at the back of everyone’s mind has been, “How long can Houston keep him?” The question was answered—at least for now—when the Houston Ballet and London’s Royal Ballet entered into an agreement earlier this year to time-share Acosta’s talents, an arrangement accorded only top dancers. Considering that the 25-year-old dreamboat could have decamped altogether, his decision to maintain his Texas ties is a testament to his loyalty. It is also a tribute to the Houston Ballet as a talent incubator. Indeed, Houston is where Acosta became a star.
Today Acosta’s performances are hailed as miraculous; when he was an urchin growing up in a Havana barrio, stealing mangoes and break-dancing in the streets, the miracle was getting him to practice his pliés and pirouettes at all. “I