Men in Motion, Sadler's Wells Theatre | Dance reviews, news & interviews
Men in Motion, Sadler's Wells Theatre
Men in emotion a more apt title as Royal Ballet star escapee takes his first steps off the leash
Sergei Polunin’s flight this week from the Royal Ballet just as he rises to the pinnacle made last night's Sadler's Wells show a very hot ticket for those who wanted to catch his guest appearance in it. But the evening was also a proclamation that this isn’t the first time that company has mislaid one of its finer talents. Ivan Putrov, who masterminded it, was also a splendid young principal who lost his compass inside Covent Garden, and last year sheared off to join the contemporary dance world.
For Men in Motion he invited Polunin to join him and five others in a male-centred programme that, in the hallowed Russian tradition, has since had changes from what’s been announced, reducing seven to five, and losing what he had wanted as a rousing male send-off, Nacho Duato's Remanso. This must have added unwanted extra tensions to a show already saddled with the apocalyptic last-minute excitement of Polunin’s leap to personal freedom (Polunin pictured by Elliott Franks).
I wonder if Putrov intended the youthful sadness that suffuses the programme. “Men in Emotion” would be a more apt title, as essentially the dance numbers are five variants on being all by yourself in the moonlight and not, to be honest, dashing about in the thrilling way that ballet chaps usually tend to do. One of the young men invoked is Nijinsky, the Ballets Russes prodigy whose emotional and mental disintegration in his mid-twenties haunts Putrov's programming.
But the symbolism of opening with Le Spectre de la Rose, Fokine’s plangent romance where a girl dreams of her rose coming to life, strikes a false note with a performance where the dancers - one from the Mariinsky, another from English National Ballet - seem to be coming at it from different places. Spectre is almost doomed to fail because its contents are so debated, and yet it is all scent and suggestion. This ballet was where 21-year-old Nijinsky, in a rose-petalled leap, established his near-divine aura as a creature trembling with unidentified urges, neither quite animal, vegetable nor mineral. Probably the 1911 orchestra was better than last night’s scratch band, but Igor Kolb (pictured right courtesy Mariinsky Ballet, whom I’ve much admired for his danseur noble qualities in past years) was so tendrilly he was positively sweet-pea. Even the irresistible sweetness of ENB's Elena Glurdjidze in her muslin cap and ballgown couldn't override a sense that this number had been thrown together without loving care.
Then the anticipated highlights: Polunin and Putrov each did solos bare-chested. Putrov wore gold jewellery, Polunin wore tattoos. Polunin with his angry eyes and soaring leaps very nearly rescued a silly Bolshoi cameo about Narcissus (see picture above, by Elliott Franks), while Putrov over-respectfully marked out a slight Frederick Ashton gala number about sorrowing Orpheus.
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