Magazine article The Spectator

Splendid Display

Magazine article The Spectator

Splendid Display

Article excerpt

A Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev

Royal Opera House

Phoenix Dance Theatre

Sadler's Wells Theatre

The first time I saw Rudolf Nureyev on stage was in 1966. It was on that evening that I decided to devote my life to dance; like many others, I had fallen under his spell. No wonder I was eagerly awaiting the Royal Ballet's Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev, even though I knew that, ten years after his death, no dance commemoration could make me relive the magic of the `flying Tartar', as an eminent dance writer once called him.

The programme kicked off splendidly. Irek Mukhamedov, another Tartar, brought the house down with a self-choreographed solo, Memories, in which carefully placed, unpretentious references to some of Nureyev's celebrated roles punctuate a seamless display of artistry and technical bravura. The effect of this simple yet engaging dance is similar to that of Frederick Ashton's Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora, in which rapid images from personal recollections allow the viewer to catch a glimpse of the legendary Isadora Duncan. Mukhamedov's piece does the same for Nureyev, for there were moments, such as the final striking pose from the finale of Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, in which I felt transported back in time.

Next came Apollo, the quintessential neo-classical Balanchine ballet that found in Nureyev a memorable interpreter although, if memory serves, not a stylistically ideal one. Handsome Carlos Acosta possesses the same prowess and the same wild sensuality that Nureyev did. What he lacks, however, is the Apollonian radiance and majesty the eponymous part requires. His approach is never tempered, as it was for Nureyev, by god-like poise, and he performs the whole ballet with a fierce, illsuited Dionysian spirit, which is a pity, as his technique is utterly superb. Next to him, Darcey Bussell, Marianela Nunez and Mara Galeazzi were three splendid muses, totally at ease with the demanding intricacies of this 1928 reading of classical antiquity. I only wish this ballet could be seen more often at Covent Garden, for it provides splendid dancers like these with a chance to display some of their most refined and admirable qualities.

The exhilarating atmosphere created by the two dances in the first part of the evening was not going to last long, though. When Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire started dancing the duet from William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, a gigantic screen behind them projected rare and not-so-rare footage of Nureyev dancing, talking, studying and rehearsing. …

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