International ballet star Carlos Acosta wants to complete construction on an abandoned, unfinished ballet school to train the next generation of dancers in his native Cuba! Great idea, right? Not so fast. Acosta’s plans have caused much more controversy than he likely anticipated, and it looks like it’s going to be an uphill battle.
For starters there’s the fact that the dance building and surrounding arts school was commissioned by Fidel Castro as a way of embodying the vision of the revolution. Then, as the country’s government switched over to communism in 1965, the campus’ elaborate architecture was deemed elitist and impractical. That’s why construction stopped in the first place. So Acosta arriving on the scene with intentions of finishing the school stirs up a political debate, at the very least.
Then there’s the issue of dueling architects. One of the school’s original designers, Vittorio Garatti, now 85, says he has always hoped to complete the school himself and objects to the young Acosta’s plan to bring in a new architect to finish construction. As artists, we can certainly understand Garatti’s reaction, but there’s also the argument, “Well you had over 40 years to do it! What’s the holdup? Kids could be learning ballet by now!”
Hopefully Garatti and Acosta will be able to compromise and collaborate, because it sounds like there’s huge potential for this training school in Havana. If nothing else, these events illustrate how a project—especially construction—can escalate to become almost unmanageably large in what feels like a matter of seconds. Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew when it comes to studio improvements? How did you deal with the situation?
Photo: Carlos Acosta in the unfinished ballet school in Havana, by Jose Goitia for The New York Times