Kings of the Dance

Prince of the Pagodas – Birmingham Royal Ballet: London Coliseum, 26 March 2014
Author: Gerard Davis
Date: March 20, 2014
Publisher: Dancing Review

Kings of the Dance
The new range of Kings of the Dance coathangers go on sale in the London Coliseum gift shop.
Photo by Andrea Mohin

If the apex of male dancing is generally considered to be bish-bash pyrotechnics then the five-strong ballet supergroup Kings of the Dance demonstrated at London’s Coliseum that this idea might be tish-tosh. Beauty and subtlety were as evident as brute force in this liberating show of seven short pieces.

Epitomising the whole evening, Ivan Vasiliev turned in two extraordinary performances that reflected two sides of the male dancers’ potential. Roland Petit’s Le Jeune Homme et la Mort showed him flying around the stage and expressing his fury as a slave to his sexual desires – all elements of the strong heroic characters that he’s portrayed throughout his career.

In Patrick De Bana’s Labyrinth of Solitude however, he displayed a fragile complexity that revealed a far suppler body vocabulary. It’s true that a few gigantic leaps were thrown in and there was an almighty series of jetes to all but close the piece but they were thoughtfully welded into a gentler fabric of arm ripples and restrained postures that expressed a man in doubt and uncertainty. It was an incredible performance made all the more powerful for the bottled-up testosterone.

Another subtle work of tender beauty came in the form of Denis Matvienko and Marcelo Gomes’ homo-erotic Morel et Saint-Loup duet from Roland Petit’s Proust. Soft and languid, they explored a host of new ways to catch outstretched limbs to prevent each other from leaving their fond embraces.

In Massimiliano Volpini’s striking Prototype Roberto Bolle presented himself as the ideal ballerino by matching ballet steps and movements to lovely abstract washes of light on a screen behind him (which extended even to his curtain call). If there were also a few too many long, lingering camera shots on his tight torso, there was no questioning his technique, precision and joyous lyrical expression. Not that I’m jealous or anything.

The evening finished on a high when all five dancers gathered together for the only time to bounce their way through Marcelo Gomes’ KO’d. A breezy burst of happiness chock-full of cheesy grins and flamboyant gestures, each dancer got their turn at something fancy – when Vasiliev flung himself out of the wings into an unfeasibly high jump, the audience could only laugh at the impossibility of what he’d just done – but it was their ensemble synchronisation and unity that impressed the most.

Kings of the Dance wasn’t all brilliant; Nacho Duato’s Remanso that opened the show was kind of cutesy without being memorable and Leonid Jacobson’s camp solo Vestris for Leonid Sarafanov that appeared to mock the idea of the Danseur Noble was neither interesting or funny. However, as a showcase for some of the greatest male ballet dancers working today and for exhilarating, thoughtful entertainment, Kings of the Dance would be hard to beat.