A gala should not be an endurance test. Ensemble Productions' Homage to Nureyev has a starry international cast, and some fine performances, but heavens, it's long. Close to four hours of short numbers, this tribute to the great 20th-century ballet star was epically episodic.
Most items had some kind of link – often tenuous – to Rudolf Nureyev, but the programme had little sense of organisation or pace. A badly edited film section showed random clips of Nureyev in performance and interviews, making the running time even longer.
Homage to Nureyev was an exhausting lucky dip. At its best, it gave us the Royal Ballet's Alina Cojocaru and Sergei Polunin in an enchanting duet from Coppélia. It also turned up Adagietto, with Gil Roman emoting interminably in Béjart's rambling setting of Mahler.
The Bolshoi Ballet's Svetlana Zakharova swept her long legs into the twitches and wriggles of Krzysztof Pastor's Tristan and Isolde, partnered by Andrei Merkuriev. The Royal Ballet's Ivan Putrov, Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson were sharp and intelligent in a movement from Glen Tetley's Pierrot Lunaire.
Manuel Legris, one of the stars Nureyev promoted when he was director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, did his charismatic best with Patrick de Bana's horrid A Picture Of..., another angsty male solo. Former Kirov star Faroukh Ruzimatov stalked through The Moor's Pavane, but couldn't give José Limón's choreography enough momentum.
The Mariinsky Ballet's Ulyana Lopatkina was coy in a Russian dance, her folk-inflected steps needing more juice. She was bold and authoritative in Hans van Manen's Trois Gnossiennes, partnered by Ivan Kozlov. Loptakina unfolds into grand poses, introduces quirkiness by flexing a foot, then stretches triumphantly out again.
With Thiago Soares injured, the Royal Ballet's Marianela Nuñez hastily switched partner and repertory, dancing an elegant White Swan pas de deux. English National Ballet's Erina Takahashi was buoyant as the Black Swan, partnered by Dmitri Gruzdyev.
Polunin and Cojocaru gave the evening's happiest performance; he soared gleefully through the Coppélia duet, his dancing grand and easy. Cojocaru danced with gorgeous freshness and witty musical timing. Spinning through brilliant turns, she held out her skirts, a virtuoso at play.