BWW Review: CONTEXT FESTIVAL, Sadler's Wells

BWW Review: CONTEXT FESTIVAL, Sadler's Wells

BWW Review: CONTEXT FESTIVAL, Sadler's WellsDiana Vishneva earned a thunderous ovation at Sadler's Wells last night - not only from the audience, but also from the beaming assembly of dancers who stood behind her.

They were applauding her performance, which had been exquisite, radiating skill and artistry, but also her work off the stage: Vishneva is a champion of new choreography, and an ambassador of sorts, bringing together talent and vision from around the world.

Her CONTEXT Festival - which is on tour, staging competitions and educational programmes, and collecting new dancers, and new dance - stopped in London last night. It featured mostly newly commissioned pieces, including a couple of world and UK premieres, and highlighted the very latest in artistic and stylistic innovation.

In a pas de deux featuring Pavel Glukhov and Yuri Chulkov, with new choreography by Glukhov, two men tested the limits of the duet format. Light in November saw the men competing for space - pulling, pushing, wrestling, and, finally, supporting each other.

Vishneva herself danced with regular partner Marcelo Gomes. The choreography of Vertigo was conventional - jarringly so, in an evening of such new and radical work - but the performances were unimpeachable in their subtlety, strength, and elegance.

Asunder, a 2017 ensemble performance by Spanish choreographer Goyo Montero, was trippy and unpredictable. With nods to the surrealist artists of the 20th century, the movement was bizarre and beautiful, self-aware but never self-conscious.

But the showstopper last night came from an unlikely place. Londoners may recognise the name of director Kirill Serebrennikov, whose arrest in Moscow in 2017 on corruption charges made international headlines. Some critics argued that the charges were politically motivated: Serebrennikov's new ballet Nureyev, about the legendary Russian dancer who defected to the United States, glorified a man who had turned his back on his country, and made no effort to hide its title character's sexuality.

Audiences at Sadler's Wells last night were treated to a short but revelatory excerpt from Nureyev. Dancing alone to the music of the human voice, Denis Savin, in the title role, painted a portrait of a lone genius, a man with no parallel in his art and no ally in his life. Savin demonstrated the uncanny ability to dance in front of hundreds as if nobody was watching - to perform for himself.

Serebrennikov, choreographer Yuri Possokhov, and Savin evoked in a few short minutes of dance a deep and painful sense of memory, and loss: Nureyev lost his home country when he defected, in 1961, and the world lost Nureyev when he died, in 1993, of complications related to AIDS.

The first ballet theatre in London or New York to produce Nureyev in its entirety will sell out every night.

The CONTEXT Festival ran on 12 March.

Photo by Evgenia Basyrova.

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