Soft-shoe shuffle in Islington
MYPERFECT WEEKEND Carlos Acosta, the acclaimed Cuban ballet dancer, likes lie-ins and lazy days – with no lifting
At the moment I’m working on two ballets, so on Saturdays I’m often rehearsing at the Royal Opera House. I’ve lived in London for 10 years. When I first got here, I was depressed and lonely, but after a couple of years everything got much easier.
I grew up in Havana and I miss the sun and the beach terribly. I love the humidity of the tropics and the early morning when the sun is about to come up and everything is quiet. Everyone helps everyone else in Cuba and life is very slow, unlike London or New York. People have plenty of time to socialise. They can have coffee on their terraces and talk about books, while their children can play football and baseball in the streets without fear of being attacked.
I live in Islington in a house with wooden floorboards and big sofas. It’s darkish and cosy, and there’s a garden and roof terrace. If I’m not rehearsing, I’ll wake up at about 10.30 and go out for breakfast with my girlfriend, Charlotte Holland, at Giraffe off Upper Street. I’ll have scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, toast, fruit, coffee and juice. We eat out a lot and also like Sofra in Exmouth Market. I know the manager there and always order the mixed grill.
Charlotte and I have been together for two years and we make a really good team. We met at a barbecue thrown by the producer of Tocororo, the dance I created, but only started dating a year later. She’s not a dancer, but she really looks after me.
After breakfast, we might go to Borders bookshop in Angel to look for new DVDs. I like films that cheer me up and are silly. Wedding Crashers made me laugh and I also loved Becoming Jane. Sometimes we shop for furniture for our house. There’s an antique shop just opposite Giraffe that I really like. Occasionally we’ll go to Tate Modern, the Royal Academy or the British Museum. I was sad to miss the Louise Bourgeois exhibition. I love her bronzes.
On Saturday nights, we might go to the Groucho or Floridita, the Cuban restaurant on Wardour Street. Floridita has a live Cuban band and you can dance salsa. I didn’t have to teach my girlfriend — she knew how to dance it already. I like the food there. I’ll have moros y cristianos [brown rice with black beans] and tostones [fried plantains] and we’ll drink mojitos.
On Sundays, I like to lie in really late. When I wake up, I’ll have porridge with honey and coffee or tea, either Earl Grey or fruit. I’ll make calls to Cuba and speak to my mother and father to see how everything is going. I’m very close to both of them. Now I have success, I’ve been able to buy them each a house.
If it isn’t raining, we might meet up with friends nearby, but I prefer not to have a plan. It’s good to be surprised and just see what comes up. Sometimes I don’t do anything at the weekend except lie on the couch watching movies and flicking the TV channels.
I don’t hang out with other dancers and I don’t have lots of friends. That’s just the way it is. I know a lot of people, but it’s not the same thing, is it? I could probably count the number of friends I have on one hand, but I don’t think you need that many.
On Sundays, my girlfriend might cook. It’s not a routine, you know, but it might be curry, rice with ginger, pasta or fish. She’s into all this diet stuff — the good carbs and the bad. I try to follow her advice.
At the weekend, my body really needs time to recover and heal. I go to the gym, but just to use the sauna and steam bath. I like to really relax there. Most of the time my life is exercise only, so why would I get on a treadmill or lift weights? I’m lifting women all the time. Interview by Casilda Grigg
Carlos Acosta will be performing Carlos in Cuba, and with guest artists from the Royal Ballet, as part of the Spring Dance at the London Coliseum season, which runs from March 12-April 12. Tickets from 0870 145 0200 or www.eno.org.
Time to relax: ‘At the weekend, my body really needs time to recover and heal,’ says Carlos Acosta