Men in Motion, Sadler’s Wells, London

It might have seemed – like Lymeswold cheese or the nylon shirt – a Good Idea at the time. But further consideration about an evening to celebrate male dancing, produced by a new boy at the game, and with a strong reliance upon Russian performers, should have counselled a certain caution. Ivan Putrov intended his Men in Motion (which turned up in Rosebery Avenue as the week ended) to explore the possibilities of men dancing. What we saw was pauperish, and less than convincing.

It came attended with unexpected publicity, in that the dancer of the moment, Sergei Polunin – who abruptly quit the Royal Ballet last week – appeared in a brief solo. But trouble with Russian visas trimmed the casting, and a thin repertory became even more emaciated. In the event, five tremulous items hit the stage and, with a generous interval, contrived to occupy 90 minutes.

Two offerings seemed to me worthy of serious consideration. Polunin appeared, ecstatically cheered, in Narcisse, which the Soviet-era choreographer Kasyan Goleizovsky made, using a Scriabin piano prelude, for the glorious Vladimir Vasiliev and which, 40 years ago, Vasiliev danced memorably during a Bolshoi season in London. Polunin gave its self-absorbed manner a vivid and splendid life, totally unlike Vasiliev (whom I saw) and totally credible. Daniel Proietto repeated his extraordinary account of Russell Maliphant’s solo for him, in which Nijinsky’s mental unease is expressed in the circling lines of those drawings with which that tragic figure revealed his confusion. It provides astonishing images, astonishingly done by Proietto, as Satie’s monotonies go their sluggish way.

After that, a dégringolade of inadequacies: scores (Dukas’ La Péri, Weber’s Invitation to the Dance) buffeted by gimcrack re-orchestration; Le Spectre de la rose denatured (the Rose-spirit’s dainty bangle a vicious touch) and unlikely in performance by Elena Glurdjidze and Igor Kolb; and Putrov’s view of Ashton’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits lacking the grand serenity with which its original interpreter, Anthony Dowell, imbued it. And to close the event, Putrov’s first choreographic essay, inspired by Cavafy’s tremendous poem Ithaka, proposing movement banalities to numb a ménage à trois while Dukas’ Péri trailed past. The sadness is that this event had good ideas, good intentions and performers. It came out of the oven too soon.

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