Men in Motion, Sadler's Wells, London

3.00

Runaway Polunin bounds all too briefly into boys-only pop-up

At the start of last week, the name Sergei Polunin was barely known beyond hardcore ballet fans. On Tuesday, the 21-year-old walked out of his job as a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet.

By midweek, his bare-chested image was taking up half the front page of a national broadsheet and the world knew of his part-share in a north London tattoo parlour. By Friday, a show in which he was to perform a small solo sold out. Even the fabled Serge Diaghilev, wily impresario of the Ballets Russes, couldn't have cooked up a better way to shift tickets.

Polunin's friend, fellow Ukrainian Ivan Putrov, may still be wondering whether that turn of events was good news or bad. He himself was meant to be the star attraction of his own first venture as a producer. Men in Motion, a programme of short ballets performed by Putrov and some of his mates from top companies in Russia, as well as the Royal and ENB, was designed to spotlight masculine prowess, but more specifically his.

In the event, "irresolvable issues with visas" meant that only one of the stars travelling from Russia turned up and two items were scrapped. The result was that the single titbit offered by the renegade Polunin – a showpiece from the Bolshoi repertoire – was thrown into greater prominence. Suddenly it was the only gasp-worthy choreography on the bill and duly Sadler's Wells gasped, thrilled to discover that the boy is everything he was cracked up to be.

Clad in skinny nude trunks and a lot of make-up, though not quite enough to obliterate entirely the giant tattoo that swirls across his chest, he launched into Kasian Goleizovsky's Narcisse with a single bound from the wings as joyous as it was wide and high. Was there irony in his choosing to inhabit a beautiful Greek youth who falls in love with his own reflection? Some call it vanity that so young a dancer should think he can do without the artistic nurturing that the Royal Ballet is able to give him. It was interesting to spot Kevin O'Hare, artistic director-in-waiting of the Royal Ballet, in the audience. The company has made it plain that the door is open, should Polunin change his mind.

But for this night, at least, Polunin was a free spirit, glorying in the hot, over-the-top Bolshoi style that's poles apart from the cool finesse he learnt at the Royal Ballet School. His Narcissus greedily plucked imaginary fruit, played the flute and struck Greek attitudes. He threw off a series of fabulously complicated leaps, apparently without effort. When at last he sank to the floor in a puddle of anguish, the audience roared.

The evening had begun, less confidently, with the very pink and perfumed effusions of Le spectre de la Rose, the piece that brought the 21-year-old Vaslav Nijinsky to world attention in 1909. Indeed, the shade of the tragic Ballets Russes prodigy hovered over other elements of Putrov's programming. In Frederick Ashton's slight gala number Dance of the Blessed Spirits, Putrov's clean-lined movement had an air of lonely plangency, despite his being bare-chested in white tights topped with a thick gold belt (bling that Putrov carries off surprisingly well).

But technical polish is nothing without good material. And that was in short supply in this peculiar venture. Of Putrov's own foray into choreography, a trio which seemed to be about a man who can't decide if he's gay or straight, the least said, the better. The sight of Putrov picking up the chunkier, hirsute Aaron Sillis and cradling him like a baby was surely not intended to be funny. Nor the painted sash window (design by Gary Hume) that jerked upward at a climactic point.

The protein of the evening came in Afterlight, a long, strange solo by Russell Maliphant inspired by Nijinsky's insanity and loneliness, with a turbanned Daniel Prioetto turning obsessively in a spot of light. It's hard producing a good ballet show. There's more to it than some young men think.

Last performance today (0844 412 4300)

Dance Choice

The tunnels beneath London's Old Vic have hosted a number of offbeat theatre shows. Now comes Without Warning, a dance piece inspired by Brian Keenan's book An Evil Cradling, an account of his four years in captivity. Four dancers and four musicians play out erratic states of euphoria, ridiculousness and uncertainty (to 11 Feb).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory