BWW Review: AGAINST THE STREAM, London Coliseum
Former Royal Ballet Principal Ivan Putrov has been curating regular galas in London in recent years, with hit and miss results. Men in Motion (2017) fell into the latter category; however, returning with Against the Stream, the result was an engaging evening of dance from some of ballet's most starry names.
The evening presented a fascinating overview of opposing styles and techniques on offer, from the physicality and easy stage presence of New York City Ballet (NYCB) to the purity and precision of Paris Opera Ballet - and more in between.
There was also the opportunity to see dancers who rarely grace the London stage, and NYCB stalwart Maria Kowroski left a firm impression with her long limbs extending gracefully in Jerome Robbins delicate In G pas, with Tyler Angle. However, paired with Marcelo Gomes for the the Diamonds pas de deux in Act II the result was less striking, meandering through Balanchine's choreography.
Enigmatic former NYCB principal Joaquin De Luz entertained in Jerome Robbins' Suite of Dances - one moment all jaunty hips and carefree skipping, the next returning to warp-speed pirouettes and luxurious développés. Cellist Urska Horvat joined him on stage to complete the intimate display.
Standout offerings included Kate-Lynn Robichaux and Marcelo Gomes in the Sinatra Suite, set to a quartet of songs and choreographed by Twyla Tharp. In an act full of tutus and tights it was enticing to see Gomes suited and booted and Robichaux in ballroom shoes, slipping and sliding stylishly from his hold. The tricky lifts didn't always succeed, but the swaggering Broadway opulence made it easy to overlook.
English National Ballet soloist Katja Khaniukova, also present at last week's Russian gala, revisited the Flames of Paris pas de deux but with Royal Swedish Ballet Principal Dmitry Zagrebin. The change of partner made for an invigorated performance, Zagrebin's jetés exploding across the stage and Khaniukova making light work of the final fouettés, her pointe shoe rooted to the spot and with easy musicality. It was a far superior performance to the previous showing.
The pair returned to close Act II with the Diana and Acteon pas de deux, with accomplished support from students of English National Ballet School, and presented in similarly flashy style.
From those firecrackers to the genteel refinement of Mathieu Ganio and Hannah O'Neill of Paris Opera Ballet, who opened the performance with Serge Lifar's Suite en blanc. Lifar here offered a modern take on pas de deux of the classical repertoire with choreography challenging in its slowness. The lifts and holds could easily look as uncomfortable as they most probably are, but the pair delivered with finesse.
Ganio's partnering came under increased scrutiny in Nureyev's Cinderella, a more intricate piece that lacked the desired impact from the classic story. The occasional fumbled lift was covered well through O'Neill's unfaltering poise.
The stellar cast was completed with versatile performances from Matthew Ball and Mayara Magri. The dynamic couple demonstrated attack and physicality in Kenneth MacMillan's Images of Love (a pas de trois danced with Putrov) and were later resplendent in the Awakening pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty, rounding off a sumptuous evening.
Against the Stream was at the London Coliseum on 7 April