sun 23/11/2014

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

Putrov's dilemma: where can classical dancers go when they want to rough it up?© Sam Taylor-Wood/SWT

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.

Polunin Elliott FranksFor 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.

igor kolb spectreBut 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.

Comments

Really, one of the most

Really, one of the most coherent and informative reviews of any performing art— that I've ever read. This whole Putrov/Polunin thing has been like watching a car wreck in slow motion and being powerless to stop it. The elder clearly having influence over the latter—dragging Sergei down with him I suppose. Having said that, where was the wisdom of the graybeards in heaping several major new roles in one season upon the boy's head? The powers at RB are the real villains of the piece. They should have brought the boy on more slowly, and they are responsible for this particular crime. One trembles for Polunin's future.

Dear Ismene, Could you

Dear Ismene, Could you please explain your stereotypical phrase "the hallowed Russian tradition"? It seems you are not aware of the reasons behind the changes made in the programme, as stated in the leaflet given out before the performance, where visa issues are referred to.

You're right. But there is a

You're right. But there is a hallowed Russian tradition of sudden unforeseen non-shows of billed artists - as Les Ballets Trockadero say at every performance, "Tonight there will be changes..." Nowadays last-minute visa issues are more a UK-versus-The World tradition as this has occurred all too regularly between the UK Border Agency and Russian dancers, musicians and writers in recent years, often blighting events that have been announced well in advance. Polina Semionova was prevented last summer from opening English National Ballet's Swan Lake, pianist Grigory Sokolov and film director Abbas Kiarostami now refuse to visit Britain, and so on. The tightening in visa procedures creates a huge disincentive to overseas artists. But given that many hundreds of Russian performers do safely make it over here every year, there must be ways to avoid last-minute difficulties. I am sorry for Mr Putrov, who had enough on his plate already.

What a review! I was there

What a review! I was there and the entire evening was dreadful. The dancers, yes, all of them with the exception of Daniel Proietto, were stiff unimaginative and like litle children prancing or rather running around the stage. The choreography was non existant as were the stage sets and the music was dull. How many more times do we have to hear Satie as a background to poor dancing? They were physically on stage for less than an hour for the whole evening. As for the hype around Polunin, he may well be a star at Covent Garden, but in my eyes he crtainly was not last night.

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