Cuban ballet legend Carlos Acosta closes HFFNY with ‘Yuli’ at DGA

Yuli, the Carlos Acosta story, screens at the Havana Film Festival New York’s closing night at the Directors Guild of America in Midtown, Manhattan on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 for $20. There is a VIP cocktail before the screening with a Fiesta Cubana after party for $250.

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Carlos Acosta

Carlos Acosta is a world-renowned Cuban ballet dancer. He has the stature of Baryshnikov and Nureyev. Acosta is a ballet god and one of the dancers who broke down barriers. For example, he was the first Black Romeo.

Acosta grew up poor, as in no shoes poor. As a kid he didn’t want to dance. He wanted to be a kid and was a bit precocious, but his father kept pushing him so he would stay out of trouble, get a daily meal, and learn some discipline. It’s actually a common story for ballet stars.

Back then, you had to be twice as good as everybody else to even get one look. But Carlos just has this incredible natural talent. Eventually he started to realize what was happening and got that discipline his father so desired. In 1990 Acosta won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne and the Grand Prix in Paris.

That led to the English National Ballet, the National Ballet of Cuba under Alicia Alonso, and then the Houston Ballet where he really developed. Finally Carlos needed bigger horizons, so he went to The Royal Ballet. There he was promoted to Principal Guest Artist which allowed him to tour the world with other companies. Basically The Royal Ballet shared him. He has danced all the major ballet roles and for all the world’s leading ballet companies.

Acosta is now known for his choreography as well. He is the kind of artist who stages shows that break box office records. A lot of his choreography has been made into film as well.

Carlos wrote his autobiography No Way Home in 2007. It’s a great title because once destiny takes you, there is no way home.

Since 2017 he has been opening doors for his fellow Cubans at his Cuban contemporary ballet company Acosta Danza. Carlos will be Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet in England in 2020.

Artists like Carlos Acosta come around once in a generation, but he is an inspiration for everyone.


Yuli is Icíar Bollaín’s 2019 film about Carlos Acosta’s life and career. “Yuli” was the nickname given to Carlos by his father.

The story plays out as flashbacks while the dancer is choreographing a piece in which he plays his own father. Working through the pains of childhood is perhaps the ultimate mark of maturity. It’s not a place everyone can reach.

Edilson Manuel Olbera Nuñez shines as the young student. Mario Sergio Elías of Acosta Danza plays the young dancer. Carlos stars as well.

The story touches the difficulties of growing up poor, growing up in revolutionary Cuba, and growing as an artist. But there isn’t bitterness, there is only hope.

Havana Film Festival Closing Night Tickets

This is a big deal because Carlos is attending the cocktail, screening and after party.

But more importantly proceeds will fund scholarships at Acosta Danza, his contemporary ballet company in Cuba.

5:15-6:15pm: VIP Fundraising Cocktail Reception • for VIP ticket holders only
6pm: Doors open to General Admission ticket holders
6:30pm: Screening of Yuli
9:30pm: Fiesta Cubana • location disclosed at event • for VIP ticket holders only

Get tickets at

Directors Guild of America

110 West 57th St, New York, NY 10019
(between Sixth & Seventh Ave)
Midtown, Manhattan

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