Men in Motion 10th Anniversary Gala
Artistic Director, Producer and Dancer Ivan Putrov
Former Principal of The Royal Ballet Ivan Putrov’s showcase for the male dancer, Men in Motion, is back bigger and better. Kyiv-born Putrov has brought his productions of Men in Motion to London in 2012 (twice), 2014 and 2017. His Dance for Ukraine fundraising gala (together with Alina Cojocaru) in March this year must have been good prep for this… he’s been a busy man, not resting on his laurels.
He’s even dancing tonight, Frederick Ashton’s gorgeous Dance of the Blessed Spirits, repeating his 2012 performance and in 2019 for his Against the Stream Gala—it’s turning into his signature dance. Vadim Muntagirov performed it for the Men in Motion gala in 2017, and memorably for The Royal Ballet in lockdown, when it was streamed.
Several numbers have been seen before but that’s not a bad thing—galas tend to repeat gala fare but with different performers. All performers, so many (Royal Ballet’s Muntagirov, Matthew Ball, Leo Dixon, Luca Acri and Joseph Sissens, Edward Watson is brought out of retirement, José Alves of Ballet Black, Dmitry Zagrebin of Royal Swedish Ballet dances three numbers, Matteo Miccini of Stuttgart Ballet, Isaac Mueller, Guillermo Torres, and Koyo Yamamoto (Dutch National Ballet), and Jack Easton now of Birmingham Royal Ballet dances his own choreography seen at Sadler’s Wells in Unite for Ukraine from UK ballet students) tonight are on mouth-watering good form.
It’s a treat to see performers from European dance companies, a treat to broaden one’s memory bank. And to see new creations: tonight is a mix, as usual, of old and new, some archival, dating from 1911 and 1924 through 1941 and 1943 to 1964, the '70s, '80s, '90s and the present decade, eleven before the interval and nine after.
One of the delights either side of the interval is Arthur Pita’s brilliantly naughty Fosse parody, Volver. Volver was danced in the 2014 gala by Watson—tonight, Leo Dixon does a fabulous recreation front of curtain—whilst Watson takes on the new A Sheila Dance (referencing Chorus Line, though I also think of Sweet Charity)… to Mozart... In high heels, a shimmy body, and a cigarette dangling from his mouth, he is a jaded lady of the night with double-jointed limbs.
There are other modern pieces: Easton’s hip-hop inflected Fremd (better in the smaller Sadler’s Wells but with better production values here), Milena Sidorova’s late night vibe, very short Rose and the syncopated pas de trois Bloom (my eighteen-year-old companion’s favourite) for Dutch National Ballet, Christopher Wheeldon’s 2017 torsion duet, Us, for the Balletboyz, Alexey Miroshnichenko’s neo-classical 2004 Adagio, which suits Muntagirov so well, though I’m not sure about those flicking wrists, and it’s very like the bare torso / white tights Dance of the Blessed Spirits.
Hans van Manen’s sexy 1977 5 Tangos (Kyoto Yamamoto), Christopher Bruce’s 1987 Swansong (Matthew Ball), Marco Goecke’s 2005 Äffi (over-indulgent with three Johnny Cash songs) and Edward Clug’s simple, supple, dreamy 2018 SSSS… (music Chopin), both danced by Matteo Miccini of Stuttgart Ballet, illustrate the contemporary range and its indebtedness. Anything is possible.
But the evening opens with the Diaghilev era Le Spectre de la rose, choreographed by Michael Fokine for Nijinsky—how does one follow a legend? Luca Acri does his best, but that hovering in the air is too much to ask. The second half sees Nijinska’s 1924 Le Train Bleu brought to muscular acrobatic life by Alves, and Zagrebin does justice to Serge Lifar’s Mazurka from his Suite en blanc. And Rostislav Zakharov’s 1941 Gopak from Taras Bulba is danced with Slavic verve by Zagrebin—it gets a loud cheer.
Muntagirov is his usual elegant self in Nureyev’s Prince’s variation from Swan Lake’s act 1, which is nicely balanced by Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake act II duet (Ball reprises the Swan and Acri is the Prince). Lacrymosa, recently seen in Dance for Ukraine, ends the evening.
A rich evening of classical and contemporary amuses bouches. I ask my companion at the end does he remember the beginning... A lot to absorb, a programme is necessary for reference, but we leave on a high. It’s the music silly, a potpourri of emotion and energy: Von Weber, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi (Alves’s still body and restless arms in Peter Leung’s 2021 Eightfold: Love), Gluck, Bach, Milhaud, Lalo, but also Piazzolla, Johnny Cash, Keaton Henson, electronica...
A few outstay their welcome, some are too brief, but that’s the nature of galas. One doesn’t go to criticise but to indulge. The only one that has a set—well you have to have a window for the Spectre de la Rose to leap through—is the first, and a female (Fumi Kaneko) dreaming the rose. The rest rely on Alex Fernandes’s lighting designs and thank goodness for a live orchestra, The Paradisal Players Orchestra, led by Samuel Burstin,
Putrov lists a whole page of support from the ballet world, illustrious names. It is an amazing feat to gather so many for one night, eighteen dancers and the rest. Pat on the back…
Reviewer: Vera Liber