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Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story

Posted on February 6, 2019


A film inspired by the life of Carlos Acosta will be released in the UK and Ireland on April 12, with an exclusive screening at the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House on April 3.

Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story is directed by Icíar Bollaín (Take My Eyes, Even the Rain), written by Paul Laverty (I, Daniel Blake) and produced by Andrea Calderwood and Juan Gordon. The special screening at the Linbury will include an interview and Q&A with Acosta, Bollaín and Laverty after the film.

Photographs: Scenes from Yuli. Photographs by Denise Guerra.

Based on Acosta’s autobiography No Way Home: A Cuban Dancer’s Story, the film follows his formative years in Cuba as dancer, his move to London and his relationship with his father, his family and his country.

The cast includes Acosta playing himself and introduces Edilson Manuel Olbera playing Carlos as a boy, Keyvin Martinez, who plays Carlos as a young man, and Santiago Alfonso as his father.

Yuli is the nickname given to Acosta by his father, Pedro. From a young age, Yuli fled any kind of discipline and education; the streets of a rundown neighbourhood in Havana were where he had most of his schooling.

However, aware of his son’s natural talent, Pedro forces him to attend Cuba’s National Ballet School. Against his will and despite his initial lack of discipline, Yuli ends up being captivated by the world of dance and goes on to become principal dancer with The Royal Ballet in London, where he forged an acclaimed 17-year career until he retired in 2015 from classical ballet. 

Poster of Yuli.

Today, Acosta is now guest principal répétiteur at The Royal Ballet, coaching the dancers and leading rehearsals, as well as managing his own dance company Acosta Danza. He was recently appointed director of Birmingham Royal Ballet commencing in January 2020.

Yuli had its world premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival, where it won the Best Screenplay Award. It has gone on to receive five nominations for the Spanish Goya awards including Best New Actor for Carlos Acosta, Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Modern Films will release Yuli in the UK on April 12. Tickets for the screening at the Linbury Theatre on April 3 are £25 and can be purchased at or by calling 020 7304 400. For a list of regional cinemas that will be screening the ROH event, go to

Main image: Carlos Acosta in a scene from Yuli.

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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