Review: Ivan Putrov - Men in Motion - London Coliseum

Performance: 30 - 31 January 2014
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Monday 3 February 2014

Ivan Putrov in Kasian Goleizovsky’s 'Narcisse'. Photo: John Ross

Performance reviewed: 30 January

Ivan Putrov is back and with a big bang, continuing his series of shows that highlight the male dancer. Having produced a quick one-two in inaugurating his Men in Motion series in January and March 2012 – both at Sadler’s Wells – he has kept London waiting for almost two years for the third iteration (although other versions were shown in Russia and Italy, last year).

At the end of my review of the second production, I concluded: ‘Roll on MiM3 but let’s hope it has a little more time spent on planning and preparation’. Well, it may have rolled on slowly, but the new production is much bigger and significantly more sophisticated in its production values and the richness of the choreography on show than either of its predecessors, and it included three excellent world premieres by choreographers of note. Putrov also hit the over-ride button in his casting decisions, bringing eight of the world’s best male dancers (plus the grossly underused English National Ballet lead principal Elena Glurjidze) to join him in no less than 15 works, which made for a long evening but one that did not overstay its welcome.

Some irony was evident in the timing of the show coinciding with the later stages of the Prix de Lausanne (the annual pre-professional international ballet competition for young dancers), since eight male solos (four of which were consecutive in Act 1) did provide the feel of competition (perhaps we are seeing the inauguration of a “Prix de Putrov” for lead principals and those aspiring to such glory).

The most spectacular of these was the new one: Alan Lucien Øyen’s Sinnerman , performed by Daniel Proietto (a dancer from Argentina, well known here for his performances with Russell Maliphant, who is now with the Norwegian National Ballet). Dressed in a shimmering unitard (regrettably the costume designer was uncredited) made to resemble an indoor firework show through the impact of Martin Flack’s lighting, Proietto’s remarkable turning ability and highly flexible back were put to an endurance test of marathon proportions. Also, memorable from Act I was Valentino Zucchetti’s witty rendition of Leonid Jacobson’s curious piece Vestris (which Putrov had performed in Men in Motion 2); and from the second, Marijn Rademaker’s reprise of Marco Goeke’s piece Äffi (choreographed to three recorded Johnny Cash songs and Rademaker’s own whistling), which he performed at Sadler’s Wells just two months ago as part of Stuttgart Ballet’s Made in Germany programme. I liked it then and like it still.

The fourth of the solos worthy of mention opened the second act and was another of the premieres, choreographed on the Royal Ballet’s Edward Watson by Arthur Pita (who created Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis on the same dancer to great effect). Watson morphed from James Bond, stripping from full evening dress, into a head-to-toe Spiderman costume, holding a red balloon shaped as a heart. It was camp and hilarious, not least because of the incongruous link to Concha Buika’s passionate song Volver Volver, which is all about the turbulence of a broken love affair, to which the singer is desperate to return. It was surreal and crazy but in a very good way.

Putrov likes to mix the new with an ongoing repertoire, showcasing the development of the male dancer over the past century. Thus we saw – for the third time – Kasian Goleizovsky’s Soviet divertissement Narcisse, made in 1960, previously performed by Sergei Polunin and now by Putrov himself. This has a faun-like quality and it followed a reprise (as the opening item) of a decent pared-down performance of L’Aprés-Midi d’un Faune by Berlin based dancer, Rainer Krenstetter (turned on by Glurdjidze’s sensual portrayal of the nymph), which set the scene nicely for the rest of the programme. Krenstetter was perhaps the least well-known (to a London audience) of these men in motion and he returned in the second half to partner fellow-Berliner Marian Walter in a memorable performance of the pas de deux from Roland Petit’s Proust ou les Intermittences du Coeur. The other returning work (from Men in Motion 1) was Mikhail Fokine’s Le Spectre De La Rose, which marked the debut of Vadim Muntagirov in the role, partnering Glurdjidze, and it was a highlight of an evening packed with outstanding features. By all accounts, Muntagirov – whose surprise mid-season departure from English National Ballet to join the Royal Ballet“ was announced”:/articles/news/vadim-muntagirov-to-join-royal-ballet/ only three days previously – learned the role in very short order, but it certainly didn’t show. Earlier, he had performed the Adagio choreography by Alexey Miroshnichenko, which enabled him to showcase a select range from his best centre work.

Yonah Acosta danced Radu Poklitaru’s very forgettable Swan, which just seems to be a waste of some beautiful and iconic music (not to say, a waste of Acosta’s considerable talent). Similarly makeweight was a solo from Balanchine’s Who Cares?, performed energetically by Zucchetti and Walter closed Act I with Guala Pandi’s slight Lacrimosa. Putrov made two further appearances, beginning by achieving a lifetime ambition in dancing Fokine’s Petrushka in the duet with the ballerina (again, Glurdjidze, of course). When at the Royal Ballet, Putrov was a great exponent of the title role in Glen Tetley’s Pierrot Lunaire and he brought the same pathos and awkward grace to a very strong cameo of this other marionette. I hope that there is time yet for him to perform the full ballet. He also closed the show with a blistering performance of Russell Maliphant’s Two x Two, dancing alongside Proietto. Given that Michael Hulls’ magical lighting design is so crucial to this work, it was a crying shame that the printed programme (which frankly was very poor in terms of lack of detail and error) did not credit him at all!

This brings me literally to fifteen-and-out with the final word going to the third of the world premieres, a superb vignette by Javier de Frutos, performed by Watson and Rademaker (and a pair of chairs) with Dan Gillespie Sells singing three songs live on stage: two very quirky, but good, renditions of George Gershwin’s The Man I Love and Cole Porter’s Down in the Depths followed by Sells’ own composition, jointly with Ciaran Jeremiah (here, playing piano),Hides in Your Heart. As in Goeke’s Äffi, here was an example of a choreographer crafting a remarkable collaboration out of the inspiration from three songs.

And this reminder of the recent Stuttgart Made in Germany programme helps to set Men in Motion in context. Putrov the producer deserves enormous praise and respect for putting together a huge show, so successfully. The Stuttgart Ballet is a significant and mature organisation and – with no disrespect intended – Ivan Putrov Productions is just one man, an idea and a lot of helpers. That the show ran efficiently was a “Just in Time/It’ll be Alright on the Night” kind of miracle in relation to the time spent at the theatre (and saying that the afternoon’s rehearsals did not run too smoothly is, I understand, something of an understatement). Roll on, the next one, is all I can say and if it is as good as this, who cares if it takes another two years!

Photos: John Ross

Graham Watts is a freelance dance writer and critic. He writes for,, Dancing Times, Dance Europe and other magazines and websites in Europe, Japan and the USA. He is Chairman of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle and of the National Dance Awards in the UK.

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