Men in Motion

Devised by Ivan Putrov

Ivan Putrov Productions Ltd

London Coliseum

From 30 January 2014 to 31 January 2014

Review by Vera Liber

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First seen in 2012 at Sadler’s Wells, Men in Motion, a potpourri of dance—seven short pieces before the interval, eight after, ranging from 1911 to the present day—is back, modified, for two nights only.

Choreographers Nijinsky, Fokine, Jacobson, Goleizovsky, Balanchine, Petit, Goecke, De Frutos, Pita, Maliphant and more, make for fascinating if uneasy bedfellows.

As does the music: Bach next to Nina Simone, Carl Maria von Weber rubbing shoulders with Johnny Cash, Mozart, Debussy, Gershwin, Stravinsky, Fauré, Saint-Saens, Andy Cowton, Dan Gillespie Sells of The Feeling.

Ivan Putrov is nothing if not ambitious, with an eye on the next chance to impress. And the goodies he has in store are a fabulous troupe of international male dancers: Royal Ballet’s Edward Watson and Valentino Zucchetti, ENB’s Yonah Acosta and Vadim Muntagirov, Berlin Staatsballett’s Marian Walter and Rainer Krenstetter, Stuttgart Ballet’s Marijn Rademaker, Daniel Proietto from the Norwegian National Ballet.

Not to forget the one necessary female, ENB’s lovely Elena Glurdjidze, to assist in L’Après-midi d’un Faune and Le Spectre de la Rose.

The Diaghilev ballets, L’Après-midi, Spectre, Petrushka, provide context, but the lack of staging and sets is a minus. And if you can’t find a Nijinsky or a Nureyev with their animal magic then L’Après-midi d’un Faune is best put away.

Vadim Muntagirov, always a plus, pulls off the perfumed role in Le Spectre de la Rose with style, but he is infinitely better in Miroshnichenko’s 2004 Adagio to Bach, exquisite, elegant, calligraphic. This one I’d like to preserve. And the next, Marian Walter in Guala Pandi’s 1980 Lacrimosa (Mozart): a body beautiful in cruciform torment.

Valentino Zucchetti is a revelation in Jacobson’s 1969 Vestris, bringing out its wit, Pierrot stagecraft and style in a way that was missing in 2012. And, he does justice to Balanchine’s sophisticated 1970 jazzy Gershwin Who Cares?

Edward Watson in Fred Astaire / Joel Grey MC tuxedo turns into a super hero to escape the bullet in Arthur Pita’s new creation, Volver, Volver, (is this a reference to Pedro Almodóvar or Vicente Fernández?) with great panache and winning music hall winks. Pita obviously sees Watson as an invertebrate—first Metamorphosis beetle, now Spiderman—a compliment to Watson’s hyper-flexibility, no doubt.

Daniel Proietto is turned into a disco glitter ball by Alan Øyen to Nina Simone’s Sinnerman, and Yonah Acosta is a cool dude in Radu Poklitaru’s very brief 2008 Swan. Goleizovsky’s 1960 Narcisse worked for Sergei Polunin’s self-absorbed character in 2012, but Putrov is made of less showy material.

Marijn Rademaker, seen in Stuttgart Ballet’s Made in Germany last year at Sadler’s Wells, repeats his superb performance in Goeke’s 2005 Äffi, bare torso, pectorals rippling—there are lots of bare torsos—a strutting cockerel and a charismatic preacher man.

But it’s not all solos. Three sexy male duets bring variety to solo exhibition. Javier De Frutos’s new 3 with D (music—electric guitar—performed live by The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells) has Watson and Rademaker play out a tangled callisthenic song narrative affair.

Roland Petit’s 1974 Proust evokes Plato’s symposium: Walter and Krenstetter dancing as one, mirror images of each other. And finally, Russell Maliphant’s famous kinetic sculpture, TWO x TWO, with Putrov and old Maliphant hand Proietto (AfterLight) gently twisting to Cowton’s contagious layered polyrhythmic sound, brings the evening to a meditative close on a high.

A dance revue of fifteen short pieces over a century span, a catalogue of historical pieces mixed with new commissions, will inevitably be a mixed bag of confectionary.

And so it proves. I’d say move on now from the intellectual framework of giving us ‘the history of the male dancer over the last century’; stay with ‘the beauty of the male form in motion’ and ‘the virtuosity and potency of the male dancer’.

Overall, an absorbing enjoyable evening, the dancers great, the music good, some played live, the orchestra under Richard Bernas’s baton, Philip Gammon at the piano, some of necessity taped. And Anthony Hateley’s lighting is crucial.

I look forward to the next Men in Motion instalment. Putrov, producer, programmer and performer, former Royal Ballet principal, is on a steep learning curve, and his reach is improving. Thirty-three, well-connected, he is an impresario in the making.

He makes a perceptive observation in the programme notes that the dancer is as much a choreographer on the night as the original creator. Now the programmer needs to step up to the mark.