An interesting short film with luminaries such as Lynn Seymour waxing lyrical about Rudolf Nureyev opened English National Ballet’s triple bill of works all connected to the legendary dancer. By all accounts Nureyev had a lithe athleticism and an extraordinary stage presence and the performer who came closest to that description tonight was undoubtedly Vadim Muntagirov.
In Maurice Béjart’s beguiling pas de deux Song of a Wayfarer, originally created on Nureyev and Paolo Bortoluzzi, Muntagirov filled the stage with personality. Ostensibly Song of a Wayfarer reflects the wandering lifestyle of the international dancer but, without understanding the words to Gustav Mahler’s orchestral songs (skilfully performed by the Orchestra of English National Ballet under Gavin Sutherland and beautifully sung by Nicholas Lester), it comes across more as a paen to the joys and tribulations of male friendship.
Accompanying Muntagirov was Esteban Berlanga but, though expressive and an excellent foil to his partner, he couldn’t compete with the young Russsian who always seemed to have so much time to luxuriate in his movement. Nothing felt hurried, everything was in its right place – even his hands unfurl with exquisite panache as he changes position. It was wonderful to watch.
Muntagirov also took the leading role in Act 3 of Raymonda. He and regular partner Daria Klimentová just look so right together, dancing totally at ease. His soaring leaps were nonchalantly delivered and she looked assured in everything she did, especially in her grand pas variation where she coquettishly slapped her hands with teasing little glances of the eyes.
Despite Nureyev’s choreographic input this Raymonda remains a ballet for the women. Fernanda Oliveira, Nancy Oldbaldeston, Erina Takahashi and Crystal Costa’s variations were all executed with a minimum of fuss, Costa’s control and timing perhaps being the highlight. Unfortunately, Ken Sarushashi, Yonah Acosta, Nathan Young and James Forbat’s teamwork was a bit scruffy in their pas de quatre. The grand swaying finale to the ballet was really well performed by all.
Michel Fokine’s Petrushka had been the first ballet up in the evening and a strange sort of thing it is too, telling the tale of a fatal love triangle between three fairground puppets. Fabian Reimair made a sympathetic Petrushka but it should be his show – instead the real triumph was Nancy Osbaldeston’s naively sexy ballerina. She was tremendous, so perfectly rigid in her Coppelia-like movements that she even fell boldly horizontally into the Moor’s lap. The Moor himself, played so capably by Shevelle Dynott, got through some dubious coconut-related shenanigans to give his character a bit of meat and from the lengthy crowd scenes a special mention must go to Shiori Kase and Jung ah Choi who were strong and playful in their streetwise Cossack-ness.
A Tribute to Nureyev was a well-judged triple bill, portraying different aspects of Nureyev’s artistic output, not plumping for the obvious and revealing a little of the restlessness that’s made him such a fascinating figure. A really good night out at the theatre, I’d say.
A Tribute to Nureyev runs at the London Coliseum until 27 July 2013. Tickets are available on the ENB website.