During my time at Sadler’s Wells, I was fortunate to work on a lot of exciting shows that were produced by the theatre. One of my all time favourites has to be Acosta Danza’s first UK tour - Debut. Not only was this the first outing for Carlos Acosta’s new Cuba-based company, but it was also the premiere of a new work made specially for him and a female dancer called Marta Ortega by choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
My first responsibility as marketing manager for the tour was to build a brand identity for the company that would create an instant impact. Apart from Carlos, the dancers were all unknown to UK audiences so they needed imagery that would immediately conjure paint a picture of the incredible strengths of the dancers and evoke the spirit of modern Cuba.
When choosing a photographer for this unenviable task I knew I had to find someone who would not only be able to cope with the Havana heat but would use creative license and artistic flair to get the best out of the dancers. I chose to work with photographer Manuel Vason because I knew that he would create something unexpected. I had worked with him a few years before on a shoot for Sadler’s Wells’ production Gravity Fatigue, a show created as a vehicle for fashion designer Hussein Chalayan. During what should have been a standard shoot in a dance studio at Sadler’s Wells, Vason decided to take the dancers up onto the roof (something that I later got in hot water for with the management) resulting in an iconic poster image that helped to sell out the production.
After a brief meeting between Carlos and Manuel in Paddington station I was convinced I had made the right choice. The two were able to communicate their artistic ideas and come up with a plan within the brief I had set. The results were incredible. A series of outdoor shots taken on the site of the derelict ballet school Carlos is hoping to restore in the future were complemented by a number taken inside the Grand Theatre Alicia Alonso in central Havana.
There were many factors that contributed to the success of this particular tour - not least because Carlos himself was performing in it - but I do believe these images laid the foundations. They built a confident image of quality and gravitas that gave audiences the assurance that the production would deliver.