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  • Miles Hedley


Updated: Aug 7

Ballet legend Carlos Acosta travels the globe as a superstar performer and also as a choreographer, writer and educator. His iconic status means he could headquarter the dance charity that bears his name pretty much anywhere on the planet – so he’s opted to join Woolwich Works’ creative family at the beautiful Thamesside setting of the Royal Arsenal.

It’s not as strange a choice as it might at first seem. South-east London is already a veritable hotbed of dance with Luca Silvestrini’s brilliant company Protein already based at Woolwich Works, the incomparable Trinity Laban conservatoire just upriver in Greenwich and thousands of student performers living nearby because the surrounding area is less expensive than almost everywhere else in the capital.


And of course Woolwich is one of the UK’s most ethnically diverse places and is thus a multicultural powerhouse. 


In sum, the arrival of the Acosta Dance Foundation in historic Building 40 in Artillery Square is going to make this part of London a contender to be the dance world’s El Dorado.


The foundation, which throws open the doors of its dance centre to the public on 4 September but has been working in Woolwich since last year, will initially run classes, courses and community initiatives after a series of well-received pilot schemes.


Carlos himself has always insisted dance should be available to everyone. He said: “The centre stands as the epitome of my life’s work, representing a global sanctuary for dancers of all backgrounds and a beacon of inspiration for the world of dance.

“It is a dream come true, born from my passion to create a place where dance could bring people from all walks of life together, to celebrate joy and creativity through movement.”

That dream is being realised by Acosta’s Cuban compatriot and fellow dancer Javier Torres (above right with Carlos), who is the foundation’s managing director.


He said: “Our target is to show people what dance can do for them so that there is a dancer in every home.”


The range of classes and courses on offer at the centre’s state-of-the-art facilities are designed to appeal to all ages, backgrounds and budgets.

Javier said: “Some of our programmes are free through funding by the foundation and there are concessions for students, people on Universal Credit and local residents.”


The foundation is determined to take advantage of what Javier calls the “huge market for dance” that prevails today. But he also concedes that they can’t do it alone: “We need help from local government, our partners Woolwich Works and the local community.”


The ADF team are now in talks with Protein and other Woolwich Works’ companies with a view to doing projects together. They would also like to forge links with the contemporary dance faculty at Trinity Laban.


Javier said: “We are open to any collaboration. We don’t want to compete with anybody - we want to add to what’s already here.”


He also hopes to break down perceived local barriers because the Royal Arsenal development lies behind gated walls that can be seen as off-putting. Javier said: “We want to bring the two sides of Woolwich together. This is a great opportunity to show that this is not just an elite dance centre.”


The amazing richness of south-east London's arts scene has always struck me as like a banquet for the senses, so the advent of the Acosta centre truly is the icing on the cake.

Further information and details of classes etc at

Picture: Javier Rojas



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