Against the Stream – Ivan Putrov Presents: London Coliseum, 7 April 2019

A river-ting watch?

Goodness Gracious, great Flames of Paris. Dmitry Zagrebin sets the stage alight in Ivan Putrov’s Against the Stream. Photo by Andrej Uspenski

Ivan Putrov, mastermind behind shows such as Men in Motion, is back with his new blockbuster, Against the Stream. Celebrating choreographers who’ve defied convention in order to move the art of dance forward (although there’s nothing here that modern audiences would view as uncomfortable), it’s essentially a gala that employs dancers from The Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet and more. Let’s do this in order of appearance.

Hannah O’Neill was called in last minute to accompany her fellow Parisian Mathieu Ganio and it showed. They never quite clicked together and the choice of Nureyev’s rotating chair Cinderella was an odd one (especially with Ganio’s constantly scuffing boots). Ah well, they looked beautiful when dancing on their own.

The surprise package of the night lay in the partnership of Royal Swedish Ballet’s Dmitry Zagrebin and English National Ballet’s Katja Khaniukova; they seemed so natural together. The Flames of Paris pas de deux held no fears for them and they closed the show with a bang in the Diana and Acteon Grand Pas.

Ex-American Ballet Theatre principal Joaquin de Luz was utterly charming in Jerome Robbins’ Suite of Dances. It’s a neat piece who’s improvisatory feel succinctly captures the dialogue between music and movement. It’s got everything – you’re as likely to see a forward roll as an arabesque – and de Luz and his co-conspirator, cellist Urška Horvat, made it a great deal of fun to watch.

Jerome Robbins featured again with a mesmeric piece called In G pas that was given a gorgeous treatment by New York City Ballet’s Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle. Their tenderness of partnering was a joy.

A relatively obscure Kenneth MacMillan piece, Images of Love, closed the first half. Performed by the Royal Ballet triumvirate of Matthew Ball, Mayara Magri and Ivan Putrov, it lacked context so while the complex choreography was interesting, it wasn’t entirely clear what was going on. There were, however, some magnificent leaps from Mr Ball.

Putrov reappeared to open the second half with a wonderful performance of Frederick Ashton’s Dance of the blessed spirits. Always a dancer of great expression, this was no exception.

Maria Kowroski changed partners for her second pas de deux, performing Balanchine’s Jewels with Marcelo Gomes. And a thing of beauty it was.

Matthew Ball and Mayara Magri then went on to perform a lovely Awakening Pas de deux before Gomes donned his black tie to stroll out with Orlando Ballet’s Kate-Lynn Robichaux in Twlya Tharp’s Sinatra Suite.

To be honest, the show as a whole never really caught fire but there were so many things and partnerships of interest going on, that it didn’t really matter. There was some terrific dancing, the live orchestra was excellent, and Putrov’s careful methods of ensuring that every piece was given its historical context (right down to listing the original casts in the programme) meant Against the Stream was as much an enjoyable education as a great show.

Gerard Davis

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