Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: Project Polunin; the Human Seasons/After the Rain/Flight Pattern

Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: Project Polunin; the Human Seasons/After the Rain/Flight Pattern

Article excerpt

There was a nasty sound of pens being sharpened last week as Royal Ballet runaway Sergei Polunin prepared to unveil his latest venture. The reviews were as dire as the show but the overriding mood was one of regret that so great a talent should have lost its way.

Project Polunin's triple bill was cannily timed to coincide with the release of the documentary film Dancer, which follows the young Ukrainian prodigy's progress after his snap resignation from the Royal Ballet in 2012. The film's director, Steven Cantor, had no dance background and was a pushover for all the bravura party tricks that dominate the movie's dance footage. This, together with the flashdancing YouTube sensation 'Take Me to Church', placed so much emphasis on raw virtuosity that Project Polunin was pretty much honour-bound to supply more of the same.

The Wells evening got off to a respectable start with a duet from Vladimir Vasiliev's 1971 piece Icarus,The Night Before the Flight. Like all Soviet choreography of the period, it comes heavily garnished with bravura bling: soaring jetés and swizzling chains of turns. Polunin storms through these lustily enough but it is the Royal Ballet's Natalia Osipova, Polunin's on-off girlfriend, who spins straw into gold as Icarus's sorrowing wife.

Polunin then took a breather, leaving us with Andrey Kaydanovskiy's dismal Tea or Coffee, gamely performed by four dancers from Moscow's Stanislavsky Ballet. It looked as if it had been made by someone who had heard contemporary dance described but never actually seen any. Polunin thinks it's 'a really unusual concept'. Polunin needs to get out more.

Narcissus and Echo was choreographed by Polunin himself (with help from Valentino Zucchetti) to a commissioned score by film composer Ilan Eshkeri played live by the London Metropolitan Orchestra. A corps of five nymphs and four 'Theban Boys' ponce about in an Attic manner on a rather retro-looking set dotted with clouds, constellations and planets.

Enter Polunin, in sheer tights and what can only be described as a spangled merkin. He spins (magnificently), he leaps (not quite so magnificently), then spends a surprising amount of time getting his breath back while draped over the North Pole of planet Jupiter. Eventually, he resurfaces, pirouettes some more then disappears down a steaming upstage crater while various selfies of the star are projected on to the clouds above. The whole sorry business is (partially) redeemed by Osipova, who shimmers through an adorable solo of her own devising which shows the forlorn Echo dwindle away to an answering voice. …

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