Kings of the Dance

Kings of the Dance, London Coliseum, review
Author: Rachel Ward
Date: March 20, 2014
Publisher: The Telegraph

Kings of the Dance
Ivan Vasiliev in Kings of Dance, performing 'Le Jeune Homme et la Mort'

In classical ballet, the male dancer to a large extent exists to showcase the ballerina - a handsome prop for her delicate form - but male-only productions are currently taking centre stage.

Only earlier this year Sadler’s Wells presented Men in Motion, directed by Royal Ballet principal dancer Ivan Putrov, and the latest tour of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is still wowing audiences. Now, hot on their heels, comes Sergei Danilian’s Kings of the Dance project, which showcases five muscular dancers at the top of their game.

The show, which has been running since 2006, has just had its UK debut at the London Coliseum - and it didn’t disappoint in terms of dynamic talent and breathtaking bravura. An elite international brotherhood, including American Ballet Theatre stars Marcelo Gomes and Ivan Vasiliev, danced seven diverse pieces, specially commissioned to display the beauty and prowess of the male form.

While the opening act, Remanso, featuring Gomes alongside Mariinsky talents Denis Matvienko and Leonid Sarafanov, demonstrated perfect lines and sheer strength, it was easily forgettable.

Not so was Vasiliev, the man most had come to see, in Roland Petit’s tragic Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. Holed up in a Parisian rooftop apartment - all wild-eyed, bare-chested and full of turmoil - Vasiliev channelled his raw and adventurous energy into existential despair to dance the demanding role of an artist driven to death by a faithless lover.

Partnered by the lithe Svetlana Lunkina - self-exiled Bolshoi prima and the sole woman to make a cameo appearance - the chemistry was magnetic. His erratic explosions of athleticism, at times, seemed out of control but perfectly embodied a young man on the edge of insanity. He devoured the stage, throwing chairs and knocking over tables as she slinked around, feline-like, subverting all feminine ideals with her fiery personification of Death.

Vasiliev thrilled further in his solo piece, Patrick De Bana’s Labyrinth of Solitude, in which he demonstrated a mind-blowing series of jetes, rippling through the air with a brute force that befits only a demigod of dance. His inclusion in the opening ceremony of the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi shows just how much this young talent is being put forward as an ambassador of his art.

Sharing the spotlight, and justifiably so, was Italy’s Roberto Bolle. In the striking Prototype, an abstract work featuring colourful graphics and 3D cloning, Bolle danced a duet with himself: precision, timing and agility all perfectly expressed with enticing modernity.

As an ensemble, Kings of the Dance didn’t really gel. Each act segued into another, Sarafanov's camp but unfunny Vestris was the weakest link of the series, but there was no traditional climax to steal the show, perhaps more fault of the choreography than of the fine dancers on stage.

But as all five gathered together for the only time, each performing a party piece, Vasiliev raised the bar with a gravity-defying leap that left no question of the dazzling display of artistic talent before us.