Kings of the Dance

Kings of Dance: a show to keep the Sun King happy
Author: Giannandrea Poesio
Date: March 29, 2014
Publisher: The Spectator

Kings of the Dance
Roberto Bolle in ‘Le Jeune Hommeet la Mort’ at the Coliseum

Louis XIV might have been a narcissistic and whimsical tyrant, but he did a lot for dance. An accomplished practitioner, he made ballet a noble art and turned it into a profession with the creation of the Académie Royale de Danse, the first institution of its kind, though not the first ballet school as some badly scripted television programmes would lead us to believe. More significantly, he showed the world that ballet can be a male art, something that 2014’s Kings of the Dance proves too.

Ever since French Romantic choreography relegated male dancing to a lesser status, ridicule of and prejudice against guys in tights are still rife. Alas, those biases also play a determining role in the way ballet is both thought of and created, and composing a ballet programme for an almost exclusively male cast remains a challenging task. Which is why Sergei Danilian, who masterminded the Kings of the Dance venture, ought to be praised, as the enthralling and artistically well-composed performance I saw steered admirably away from the trite, circus-like bravura showcase.