Oddly Arranged Programme Celebrates the Male Dancer

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Granados, Bach, Salvatore, Fauré, Banshikov, Vitali, Côté, Kings of the Dance: Sergei Danilian/Segerstrom Center for the Arts/Ardani Artists ,London Coliseum, 19.3.2014 (JO’D)

Kings of the Dance. Ivan Vasiliev and Marcelo Gomes in KO'd (c)Gene Schiavone-500
Kings of the Dance. Ivan Vasiliev and Marcelo Gomes in KO’d (c)Gene Schiavone-

Dancers: Leonid Sarafanov, Denis Matvienko, Marcelo Gomes
Music: Enrique Granados
Choreographer: Nacho Duato
Set and Costumes: Nacho Duato
Lighting Design:Brad Fields
Staging: Tony Fabre
Organization and Production: Carlos Iturrioz – Media Productions SL (Spain)

Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort
Dancers: Svetlana Lunkina, Ivan Vasiliev
Music: Johann Sebastian Bach, Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582
Libretto: Jean Cocteau
Choreographer: Roland Petit
Staging: Luigi Bonino
Lighting: Jean-Michel Desire
Set:Georges Wakhevitch (by courtesy of English National Ballet)
Costumes: Karinska


Dancer: Robert Bolle
Music: Piero Salvatori
Concept and Choreography: Massimiliano Volponi
Costumes: Roberto Guidi di Bagno (made by Sartoria Farani)
Co-directors: Avantgarde Numerique and XCHanges Vfx Design
Visual effects: XCHanges Vfx Design

Moral Et Saint-Loup From Ballet Proust
Dancers: Denis Matvienko and Marcelo Gomes
Music: Gabriel Fauré
Choreography : Roland Petit
Staging: Luigi Bonino

Dancer: Leonid Sarafanov
Music: Gennady Banshikov
Choreography : Leonid Jacobson
Staging: Andrey Ivanov

Labyrinth of Solitude
Dancer: Ivan Vasiliev
Music: Tomaso Antonio Vitali
Choreography : Patrick De Bana

Dancers: Marcelo Gomes, Robert Bolle, Denis Matvienko, Ivan Vasiliev, Leonid Sarafanov
Music: Guillaume Côté, Piano sonata no.4 in F# minor
Choreography : Marcelo Gomes
Producer: Sergei Danilian


Coming to London for the first time since its debut in California in 2006, Sergei Danilian’s Kings of the Dance (like Ivan Putrov’s ‘Men in Motion’ at the same venue in January) showcases the male dancer. Two of the works in this programme were performed by Putrov’s dancers. But while Putrov filled the orchestra pit of the London Coliseum with live musicians and chorus, here it is empty. The music throughout is recorded. This inevitably creates a colder atmosphere.

The music to Nacho Duato’s Remanso (1997), which makes up the first ‘act’, is by Enrique Granados and for piano. ‘Remanso’ is the Spanish for ‘a haven of peace and tranquility’; the piece, like its music, has delicacy and lightness. Light reflects off the bare arms and legs of the three dancers (Leonid Sarafanov, Denis Matvienko, Marcelo Gomes) as they move with upright bodies and extended limbs around the stage. At times they resemble gymnasts. At times they make you think of Isadora Duncan. The drama of the piece lies in a rose that passes between the dancers. It is also in their contrasting physiques, and in the different way each man embodies movement: Gomes is sleek and muscular; Matvienko seems to bring intellect to each gesture; Sarafanov stands out for his épaulement.

For Roland Petit’s Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort (1946), after an interval, the stage is transformed into a Parisian attic (of Expressionist angles) where Ivan Vasiliev lies on a bed, smoking a cigarette. His first movements, on rising from the bed, are almost ungainly. In an interview with Zoë Anderson in this month’s ‘Dancing Times’, Vasiliev expresses his interest in developing character: ‘I don’t like dancing, for dancing, if you have no character.’ Here the character is tortured by existential despair, something that the dancer conveys through the look of horror in his intense brown eyes. In this cramped and claustrophobic setting the pirouettes, tours and jumps for which Vasiliev is famous (and which make him a force of Nature) are used to present l’homme en cage. Death (guest dancer, Svetlana Lunkina), in a yellow dress, black wig and black gloves, arrives to tease and provoke him in ways that are increasingly charged (at one point she rubs his crotch with her calf). After their climax, you remember that the woman is Death, and that she has a job to do. If the ending is not as effective as Vasiliev and Lunkina’s danse macabre to the music of J.S. Bach, it is the fault of Jean Cocteau’s libretto, not the dancers.

The remainder of this oddly arranged evening is devoted to five works. Prototype (2013) was created by Massimiliano Volpini on Robert Bolle (who performs it here). It uses ‘interactive’ video footage to trace the male classical ballet dancer from what Mark Franko has defined as the ‘early modern techno body’ of baroque dancing to the present day. Bolle shows a command of different styles of movement. The words ‘Pirouette: incorrect’ and ‘Pirouette: correct’ appear on the screen as he dances both kinds. By the end, though, I thought the filmed images come to dominate the piece too much.

Denis Matvienko and Marcelo Gomes return for Morel Et Saint-Loup From Ballet Proust (a second work by Roland Petit, from 1974). Matvienko seemed uncertain at the introverted, solo start, then assured as the movement switched to the expansive, then uncertain again (at moments) during the mirroring pas de deux (a section danced in the ‘Men in Motion’ evening). Both he and Gomes brought out the emotional rawness that Petit finds in Fauré’s music for violin. It was a rawness to which the audience responded with applause. Vestris (1969), by Leonid Jacobson, seems out of place when danced here by Leonid Sarafanov, as it had when danced by Valentino Zucchetti in the Putrov programme. Ivan Vasiliev personifies despair again in Patrick De Bana’s Labyrinth of Solitude. The audience cheered when he broke out from the up to then confined movement into an angry-seeming, force of Nature manège. At the end, he does not disappear into the wings; he walks (upstage) away from his performance as if even that is of no comfort to him. The audience roared its approval.

The final piece by Marcelo Gomes, “KO’D”, begins and ends with all five dancers appearing to shield their faces, ironically, from spotlights, or from the gaze of the spectator. In between, they are almost a corps de ballet of danseurs nobles, performing arabesques and entrechats as if for their own amusement. The joshing, ‘School’s out!’ tone of the piece was carried over into the curtain calls. Having performed masculinity all evening, the five men were now free to behave like boys.

John O’Dwyer

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