Sugarplums in Motion

Part of the fun of planning a theatre jaunt to London is searching all the various websites for productions. New York is easy – Playbill has it all in one place. London starts with the Official London Theatre but one also has to (frequently) check Royal Opera House, Donmar Warehouse, Menier Chocolate Factory, English National Opera, Sadler’s Wells, National Theatre, Young Vic, Old Vic and the list goes on. The reward comes when stumbling upon a gem like Men in Motion, a three nights only showcase by former Royal Ballet Principal Ivan Putrov.

Sadler’s Wells
2.30 Sunday 22 January 2012

Who doesn’t love a dancing liquorice allsort?

Twenty years old but not showing a hint of its age, festive treat Nutcracker! is cotton candy confection at its best.

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Re-imagined to begin in a grey Victorian orphanage, the children are treated to a dubious Christmas that doesn’t compare to the lavish treats doled to the spoilt owners’ children Fritz and Sugar. Clara discovers unimaginable treats when she follows the Nutcracker to the delectable Sweetieland.

Most notable in the quality of the show is the skillful, enthusiastic acting of the cast. Fabulous dancers, not to mention gorgeous looking one and all, it is the range of distinct and entertaining characters created really sets the production apart.

Special mention to Dominic North (below) and Ashley Shaw as the beautiful but self-centred brats Fritz and Sugar. North, with a curl on his forehead and sweetly rouged cheeks, was particularly magnetic, with an hilarious range of facial expressions.

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Christopher Trenfield was a masculine, athletic Nutcracker, and Hanah Vassallo captured all our hearts as the wide-eyed Clara.

Liam Mower, an original Billy Elliott (seen in action by Man in Chair back in 2005), was part of the talented cast, as one of the aforementioned Allsorts.

A full orchestra added to the quality and class of proceedings.

With an extensive range of New Adventures productions advertised, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Matthew Bourne’s groundbreaking company, Man in Chair could only dream of living in constant easy reach of Sadler’s Wells.

Ivan Putrov Men in Motion

Sadler’s Wells
7.30 Friday 27 January 2012

When putting together this unique program, Putrov surely could not have imagined the controversial events that would occur in the week leading up to it.

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Entering the auditorium on opening night, the buzz from the crowd was unmistakably focused on one topic: the defection of wunderkind Principal Sergei Polunin from the Royal Ballet only a few days earlier. Reports had Polunin (above, right, with Putrov) going to ground at his Holloway tattoo parlor, also making mention of his tweets seeking heroin. “Surely they will have to make an announcement that he is not dancing tonight” was heard more than once from the balletomanes in attendance. But no announcement came, and the fans watched with breathless wonder as the prodigious young dancer performed for possibly the last time in Britain.

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And what a performance it was. Leaping to giddying heights, Polunin (above) fused athletic strength and noble grace in a solo from Goleizovsky’s Narcisse. Most appropriate was the final image, in which Polunin’s giant shadow loomed on the back wall, the glare of a footlight symbolizing the paparazzi, before dissolving away to just light. Polunin’s classical repertoire trajectory at Royal Ballet is cut short for the moment while the ballet world hold their breath to see where he will appear next.

Opening the program was a nod to the history of appreciation for male beauty in ballet with La Spectre de la Rose, originally danced by Nijinsky in 1911. Mariinsky Ballet Principal Igor Kolb danced the rose, accompanied by English National Ballet Senior Principal Elena Glurdjidze. A vision in floral musky pink, Kolb balanced the delicate and masculine requirements expertly.

Another acknowledgement of the past was Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits, with Frederick Ashton’s choreography passed on to Putrov by the original dancer Gary Hume. Putrov gave a sensitive, nuanced performance of fluid beauty, although suffered slightly in comparison coming straight after Polunin’s more athletically showy piece.

The constant motion of Michael Hulls’ dappled lighting created a stunning effect in Russell Maliphant’s AfterLight (part one), danced to great acclaim by Daniel Proietto.

The showpiece of the evening was the new piece Ithaka, choreographed by Putrov himself. Putrov and Glurdjidze were joined by Aaron Sillis in a reflection on the journey in CP Cavafy’s poem. Backed by massive coloured panels, specially designed by artist Gary Hume, the dancers created a love triangle of sorts, with Putrov as the apex. At times partnering Sillis while at other times drawn to a more traditional pairing with Glurdjidze, the symbolism could be taken to represent the very essence of the evening in allowing men to break out from the usual role of partner to ballerinas.

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High production values characterised the event, with a live orchestra and grand piano adding significantly to the quality of the performances. The one gripe was that at 90 minutes including interval the night was all too short.

Photos #2, #3 Men in Motion: Dave Morgan

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