The Cuban principal dancer Carlos Acosta has been awarded this week with the Critics' Circle Award 2018 for Services To The Arts.

Acosta thus becomes the third dancer to win the high distinction of the UK scene. Previously it had obtained the ballerina Alicia Markova, in 2000 and the choreographer Matthew Bourne, in 2016.

Hailed as the greatest male dancer of his generation and, in many people’s eyes, one of the greatest dancers of all time, the director of the Cuban company Acosta Danza was presented with the award – an engraved crystal rose bowl – by Mark Shenton, President of the Critics Circle, at a celebration lunch at the National Liberal Club attended by critics from across all fields of the arts.

Chair of the dance section, Graham Watts, said Acosta had been a trailblazer all his career, and his achievements now included becoming the first person of colour to receive the Award for Services to the Arts. “I doubt that Carlos ever set out to be a trailblazer. But, in almost everything that he has done, Carlos – a man who is himself innately humble – has been a true pioneer.”

Acosta said he was overwhelmed to receive the award and he wished to thank the London critics for their part in supporting his career. “I am very humbled today.”

The Critics Circle Award for Services to the Arts is voted for by more than 500 members of the Critics’ Circle across its six sections – music, dance, film, drama, visual arts and literary criticism. Each section proposes a nominee from its field of the arts and then a final vote is held.

Last year it was presented to the artist, David Hockney. Previous winners include Maggie Smith, Nicholas Hytner, Richard Eyre, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Tom Stoppard, Alan Bennett, Ken Loach and Stephen Sondheim.