Men in Motion at Sadler’s Wells – Ivan Putrov & Sergei Polunin

Le Spectre de la Rose

Dancers – Igor Kolb, Elena Glurdjidze

Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance – Music
Mikhail Fokine – Choreography


Dancer – Sergei Polunin

Alexander Tcherepnin – Music
Kasian Goleizovsky – Choreography

Dance of the Blessed Spirits

Dancer – Ivan Putrov

Christoph Willibald Gluck – Music
Frederick Ashton – Choreography

AfterLight [Part One]

Dancer – Daniel Proietto

Erik Satie (Gnossiennes 1-4) – Music
Russell Maliphant – Choreography


Dancers – Ivan Putrov, Elena Glurdjidze, Aaron Sillis

Paul Dukas (La Péri) – Music
Ivan Putrov – Choreography
Gary Hume – Set
Simon Bennison – Lighting

Philip Gammon (piano)

Richard Bernas

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 27 January, 2012
Venue: Sadler's Wells Theatre, London EC1

“The rebel and the renegade” might have been as good a title for this programme, put together by ex-Royal Ballet principal Ivan Putrov (who left that company somewhat under a cloud), and including the appearance of Sergei Polunin who walked out of The Royal Ballet a few days ago, an event which made the Ten o’clock News and Newsnight. In reality it was rather more than just that. Putrov has gamely turned the clock back to the days when dancers got some associates together and ‘put on a show’. He is to be applauded for this endeavour, not least because he managed to get together fellow dancers of considerable talent (overcoming the absence of two Russian dancers who could not gain a visa to come to the UK in time) and to fashion a programme (which undoubtedly suffered from their absence and the withdrawn permission to perform one of the scheduled pieces).

The avowed intent of the evening was to highlight the varying aspects of male dancing, and in the shortened first half the three contrasting pieces certainly achieved that: Fokine’s ground-breaking Le Spectre de la Rose, which, in 1911, presented in the form of Nijinsky’s Spirit of the Rose not only the male dancer as the focus of attention but also introduced a new femininity to male movement. Suffering from rather harsh lighting but immensely helped by a set, furniture and good costuming this performance showed the impressive skills of Igor Kolb, distinguished Mariinsky principal Igor Kolb and English National Ballet’s engaging Elena Glurdjidze. No dancers can recapture the perfume of those now legendary performances by Nijinsky and Karsavina, no man can ever dream of leaping as high as Nijinsky is purported to have done, so performances of this work must stand on their own merits. A little short on atmosphere and without the support of a full orchestra (the assembled 30-piece ensemble under the ever impressive Richard Bernas played well throughout the programme) this was nevertheless a satisfying opening.

No femininity from RB bad-boy Polunin, whose soaring leaps and wild-haired presence made much of Goleizovsky’s faintly silly solo Narcisse. This was created by Bolshoi legend Vladimir Vasiliev (the original Spartacus) but Polunin resembled no-one more than Nureyev in this short solo – the pantherine quality of his movement, and the stage-dominating flared-nostril persona made this appearance a triumph, his bizarre departure from The Royal Ballet notwithstanding. Whatever this young man does now, I can only pray that it will not be to give up dance; his talent is too great to be left to rot. All praise to Philip Gammon’s playing of the Tcherepnin score.

Ivan Putrov, Polunin’s fellow-countryman and, it would seem, role-model, presented himself in a notable coup for his fledgling production enterprise – nothing less than the restoration after 30 years to the British stage of a solo by Frederick Ashton. The Dance of the Blessed Spirits was created for Anthony Dowell at an English National Opera gala in 1978 (and performed again in New York two years later). Last year Dowell set it on American Ballet Theatre (now Bolshoi) principal David Hallberg, so Putrov deserves much praise for having seen its quality and secured Dowell to teach it to him. It is a delightful solo, full of Ashtonian touches – much épaulement, use of arms and wrists (not a million miles away from the Spectre’s tendril-like movements) and clear exploitation of Dowell’s famed facility in turning. If anything, Putrov was a little too farouche, a mite jerky in what should be an exemplar of Ashtonian smoothness and serenity, an evocation of Orpheus’s despair and the “beatitude of the blessed spirit”, as David Vaughan has written.

Daniel Proietto must be the focus of incredible jealousy – Russell Maliphant’s AfterLight solo, which he created for the Argentinian, has given him the one thing dancers dream of: a role which will forever be identified as his. Proietto is quite simply extraordinary in this twisting, turning exploration of Nijinsky’s madness. The iconic poses from his dancing repertoire and the circles of the insane dancer’s drawings are the inspiration for this brilliant work, inspiringly set to Satie’s cool, mysterious Gnossiennes. It is, in reality, a duet, one between Proietto himself, an object lesson in artistic focus, and Michael Hulls’s extraordinary lighting, the dancer often dancing ‘with’ the projections beaming down upon and around him.

If the evening ended somewhat less excitingly, it was because the scheduled work, Nacho Duato’s Remanso, could not be presented, so Putrov’s own first essay in choreography Ithaka had to take its place. A three-hander, it was performed to ravishing music from Dukas’s La Péri and in a spectacularly unsuccessful set from Turner short-lister Gary Hume. Six candy-coloured panels frame the action and the backcloth is adorned with a huge painted window frame which inexplicably is raised for the final few minutes. There is no point to it. Costumes are simple – knee length ‘cycling shorts’ for Putrov and the mightily impressive Aaron Sillis, and a cute two-tone shift for Glurjidze. The action is muddled, a sort of bisexual personal journey with the lone Putrov first joined by the butch Sillis who is only to be spurned for the attentions of Glurjidze. There is no resolution at the end – both claim Putrov, staring blankly into the middle distance. It was all a little reminiscent of Antony Tudor’s Shadowplay in which Putrov danced The Boy when at The Royal Ballet, and full of influences from his career with the company. It passed by, helped by Dukas and Sillis’s powerful presence and impressive physicality.

Not perfect, by any means, but this was a brave and generally successful undertaking, which showed that Putrov can call upon many talented collaborators. He is to be congratulated for ‘going it alone’ in such a courageous way and encouraged to continue – the dance world can certainly do with more ‘independents’ presenting classical dance.

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