The Flying Ballet Brothers Take to the Air for a Buddy-Buddy Evening
Author: Gia Kourlas
Date: February 26, 2012
Publisher:The New York Times
The ballet monarchy of “Kings of the Dance: Opus 3” is a distinguished bunch that works less hard at dancing than at appearing to be bosom buddies out for a night on the town. This year’s kings — or, as David Hallberg likes to refer to the gang on Twitter, the kingpins — are Guillaume Côté, Marcelo Gomes, Denis Matvienko, Ivan Vasiliev and Mr. Hallberg.
In a program produced by Sergei Danilian, the “Kings” creative director, and performed at City Center on Friday night, the generic and sappy dances on display were as ridiculous as they were irrelevant to the art of ballet to which these dancers have committed so much of their lives.
But it has become a cycle: train for years, join a company, dance the classics and yearn for something new. Mikhail Baryshnikov turned to dance makers like Mark Morris and David Gordon in his quest for new territory. For dancers of the present generation, choreography is a cookie-cutter affair in which excessive hand twitching is meant to look profound. It’s depressing to realize that they that don’t recognize quality; if they do, they need to find the courage to start showing it.
The kings in “KO'd”: from left, Ivan Vasiliev, Marcelo Gomes, Guillaume Côté, Denis Matvienko and David Hallberg. Mr. Gomes did the choreography, and Mr. Côté wrote the score.
On any other night “KO’d,” a collaboration for Mr. Gomes (as choreographer) and Mr. Côté (as composer) wouldn’t have been a winner. But as the program’s closer — and the closest thing resembling classical ballet — it had no competition, despite the moment when Mr. Côté took a break from dancing to play his score on a grand piano.
“Kings of the Dance” might have been awful, but it wasn’t boring. The two-act program began with Mauro Bigonzetti’s “Jazzy Five,” featuring the group moving in unison with the earnest camaraderie of a flash mob. Here was a flurry of choreography in which elbows crossed in front of bodies and hands fluttered away from faces like birds. Why, when men create dances for men, is there such an embarrassing preponderance of swan arms? But there was Mr. Gomes, at the start of “Jazzy Five,” flapping away.
Throughout this work, set to smarmy European-styled R&B and rap songs by Federico Bigonzetti (the choreographer’s son), the dancers pointed at one another nonsensically and took solo turns playing air guitar and, yes, air piano.
The show’s second half, which could have been subtitled “Shirts Optional,” offered five solos. Mr. Hallberg, for all his spellbinding line, had a difficult task in making something out of the trite “Kaburias,” Nacho Duato’s fusion of kabuki theater and flamenco rhythms, in which he flounced around the stage manipulating a skirt-and-pants monstrosity. In “Tue,” Marco Goecke’s twitchy response to the music of the French singer Barbara, Mr. Côté showed his razor precision.
Mr. Gomes, in Jorma Elo’s “Still of King,” poked tepid fun at a career spent dancing princely roles. Mr. Matvienko, in Edward Clug’s “Guilty,” had less to work with. He was slinky. He wilted. He bloomed. He looked wistful. The crowd pleaser was Mr. Vasiliev’s appearance in Patrick De Bana’s “Labyrinth of Solitude,” a soapy solo embellished with bravura jumps. The audience was starved for them.