Shedding some light on the world of ballet

Irek Mukhamedov & Company | Sadler's Wells, London
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The Independent Culture

What courage. The lights failed for a time during Tuesday's opening night of Irek Mukhamedov's company at Sadler's Wells, so Natalia Ogneva and Yet Sen Chang found themselves dancing the famous duet from Flames of Paris picked out only by a spotlight on a dark stage. This is a really showy number full of spectacular steps, but if they were alarmed by the conditions - as they surely must have been - they did not let it appear. Lots of dash from both of them, enormous convoluted jumps from him, crisp intricate footwork from her, made this a highlight (no pun intended) of the night.

What courage. The lights failed for a time during Tuesday's opening night of Irek Mukhamedov's company at Sadler's Wells, so Natalia Ogneva and Yet Sen Chang found themselves dancing the famous duet from Flames of Paris picked out only by a spotlight on a dark stage. This is a really showy number full of spectacular steps, but if they were alarmed by the conditions - as they surely must have been - they did not let it appear. Lots of dash from both of them, enormous convoluted jumps from him, crisp intricate footwork from her, made this a highlight (no pun intended) of the night.

But what of Mukhamedov himself, and his gorgeous partner Altynai Asylmuratova? In the opening piece, Class Concert, they are both terrific. Mukhamedov's choreographic arrangement of a speeded-up ballet class introduces the whole company, and includes some good dancing from the others.

But the two stars easily dominate it. The newly slimmed-down Mukhamedov is on great form, building steadily to the climax of his huge whirling leaps with one leg thrust forward and the other tucked under him. It's guaranteed to make the audience draw in its collective breath with excitement and trepidation, relieved when he once more completes his manoeuvre successfully. Asylmuratova, however, needs no trick steps: she does every straightforward classical exercise so perfectly, and with such smiling ease, that you can hardly take your eyes off her.

How crazy, then, that the other pieces commissioned for them do their abilities no justice at all. I am trying to make up my mind which is the sillier item. Might it be Sita, in which the ballerina (playing a farmer's wife, if I understand the pretentious programme note rightly) repeatedly climbs awkwardly on to her squatting partner's knees, or lies flat flexing and unflexing her feet? The only relief is that she looks dead sexy in tight-fitting pants by Linda Rowell. This little bit of nonsense is choreographed by Darshan Singh Bhuller to forgettable music by Talvin Singh.

But is Some You Win... any better? Gillian Lynne is the choreographer here, working to a bit of Gershwin. Mukhamedov does rather embarrassing Gene Kelly imitations, flashing a big grin and jiggling his hands. Asylmuratova does not much at all except wander in and out looking glamorous in a little black number from Emporio Armani. There are some other chaps who lift her occasionally, and three more women who have even less to do. Well, as the title nearly says, some you lose...

In the rest of the programme, William Tuckett provides some ingenious double work for Nichola Davies and Martin Harvey. Alina Cojacaru and Mara Galeazzi dance unhackneyed duets with Vladimir Grigoriev, a newcomer here. I prefer to forget the shambles that was made of an extract from Ashton's The Dream, and that leaves a very pretty, very musical mazurka solo as the best choreography, created by Kasyan Goleizovsky to music by Scriabin, and danced by Natalia Ogneva. Stephen Lade and Zoe Mather are the admirable pianists.

* To 9 Sept (020-7863 8000)

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