Men in Motion, a celebration of male dancing arranged by Ivan Putrov, was upstaged before the curtain went up.
One of its guest stars, Sergei Polunin, quit The Royal Ballet last week, with front-page headlines and suggestions that he plans to open a tattoo parlour. It’s enough to overshadow this slight evening of dance.
Putrov, himself a former Royal Ballet star, has gathered a group of guest artists in party pieces and his own new ballet Ithaka. Though Polunin was there, some of his guest stars were kept away by visa troubles, leading to an adjusted programme.
Polunin danced Narcisse, a solo created by Bolshoi choreographer Kasian Goleizovsky. He stalks on stage in tights and body glitter, and reminds his audience what the fuss has been about.
Whether or not he sticks with classical ballet, Polunin has remarkable natural gifts. Academic steps look easy for him, with clean lines and smooth energy. His jump soars high and clear, with poses held easily in the air, no hint of strain. He even brings off, just about, the eye-flashing camp of the solo’s gestures, with mimed flute playing. At the end of this short number, the spotlight focuses on him, casting a huge shadow as he sinks to the floor. He looks at home in the limelight, even if he decides otherwise.
With Ithaka, Ivan Putrov has created a ballet in which everyone loves Ivan Putrov. He wanders the stage in pensive arabesques, bonds with dancer Aaron Sillis, then finds their relationship broken up by English National Ballet’s Elena Glurdjidze. Choreography and relationships are clichéd but vaguely defined, from Glurdjize’s predatory pointework to Putrov’s wafting gestures.
The designs, by Turner Prize-nominated artist Gary Hume, suggest something more individual. Hume’s stark set is dominated by a window outlined in glossy black paint, and side panels in different ice cream colours. Richard Bernas conducted the music, Dukas’ score for La Péri, with ripples and sparkles.
Putrov also appeared Frederick Ashton’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits, a lyrical solo, neglected for years, that is coming into fashion as a gala number. Putrov dances the flowing lines with attentive care.
The Mariinsky Ballet’s Igor Kolb danced Le Spectre de la Rose with Glurdjidze, a slightly mannered performance with an iffy version of Bakst’s famous set design. Perhaps the best dancing came from Daniel Proietto, dreamily serene in Russell Maliphant’s Afterlight.