Men in Motion, Sadler's Wells, London


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

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions