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Posted (edited)

I have headed this thread ‘Polunin in London May/June 2019’ so that if anyone saw the triple bill they can add their review(s) too.

 

We went to see Polunin’s ‘Rasputin’ this afternoon.  Here’s a review of the performance, but not of the surrounding controversy, as that has been fully discussed in another now-closed thread.  I hope if anyone replies to this they too will concentrate on the spectacle rather than perceived faults of the man’s wider persona.

 

First, the audience: my partner and I had a look around and independently guessed it was 85-90% full but it’s difficult to be accurate. The audience appeared not to be entirely typical ballet fans and there seemed to be a crowd of Polunin devotees who cheered his various virtuoso moments and gave very extended applause at the end.  So, whatever the critics will say or not say, the audience on the whole seemed enthusiastic.

 

The music:  I am not a fan of neo-classical and although there were some yearning passages in minor key, and a very exciting rhythmic period just before the interval (to accompany SP’s most dramatic dancing of the afternoon) on the whole I found it noisy and discordant.  I’d rather have straightforward rock (eg the delightful Hozier) or re-use of the rich pre-mid C20th repertoire.  But perhaps I’m just an anachronism.

 

The costumes: done by an (apparently) famous Russian Couturier, and mostly very appropriate; mainly understated dark, flowing suits apart from the Tsarina who wore black velvet with a bare mid-riff followed by a white glittery creation.  These seemed to emphasise a certain chunkiness.

 

The lighting: loved it.  Dramatic use ranged from suggestion of pale dawn to blood-red with black silhouettes dancing in the foreground.  I think Konstantin Binkin, another Russian, was an excellent choice here.

 

The set: as the curtain went up I thought we were in a mist-shrouded churchyard, but it quickly became apparent the stylish, monochrome mise-en-scene was actually a giant chess board with a bishop, rook (that cleverly doubled as a throne when turned around), queen, king and knight.  There was a considerable amount of moving around of these pieces as time went on and I tried to work out the undoubtedly profound significance, but felt I was only grasping half of what was there.

 

The choreography: some very original (the quirky and jerky transvestite Prince Felix for example); some elegant and classical (Tsar Nicholas II); some clearly written as a showcase for Polunin (fast and furious leaps and pirouettes).  I noticed a few subtle references to Russian folk dancing. On the whole I enjoyed the choreography although some details of the story were a little confusing to me.  By the way, the performance was a lot shorter than advertised – I think there was little more than an hour of dancing in total.  But it was satisfying.

The dancers: Djordje Kalenic – wow, what a talent!  This young boy was excellent in both technique and acting, I thought.   He gave such a good impersonation of a haemophilic child who wanted to play in spite of his worried parents’ mollycoddling.  The trio of father, mother and sickly son was genuinely moving with a (for once) pleasing musical accompaniment and explained why they were so susceptible to Rasputin who appeared to be able to help the boy.

 

Sergei Polunin – I have never seen him dance live before so cannot comment on whether he has deteriorated or not, as has been suggested elsewhere on this forum, but he really was very powerful, graceful and expressive with a truly lovely port de bras (except for the many wild instances where this was inapplicable!)There were some times during ‘slow’ periods when he might have been slightly over-acting maybe, but equally there were long periods of sheer brilliance which were much appreciated by the audience.  I only wish I had gone to see him when he was dancing with the Royal Ballet (but I was out of the country at that time).  As well as bravura technique he possesses a kind of pantherish quality that I haven’t seen since watching Nureyev in the late 70s; but whereas Nureyev’s ‘animalism’ always seemed very sexual to me, Polunin’s came over today as the power of anger.  I am not happy with the way I’ve expressed this and hope you can grasp my intention but I have spent too much of your and my time already!


Alexey Lyubimov danced the part of the Tsar and I found him  refined and accomplished – a delight to watch.  I had been looking forward to seeing Johan Kobborg, but sadly he was on in the evening and his part of Prince Felix was ably taken by Semyon Velichko at the matinee.  I’d not realised that when I booked.  I remember enjoying seeing Kobborg a few years ago and have great respect for him as an artist.

 

The Tsarina, on the other hand, was a disappointment.  She is actually an Olympian figure skater (!) called Elena Ilinykh.  There was much flinging of her around :)

 

Overall, I feel that SP’s alleged aim of making dance more popular was attained here, as a lot of people who might see ballet as elitist or boring (oh no, never!) love Polunin for his videos and film appearances, and his spectacular dancing did not disappoint them.  I hope this will encourage them to explore the world of dance more in future.  On the other hand there were some regular ballet enthusiasts too, and the lovely lady who sat next to us expressed exactly what I had been thinking – the reminder, in Polunin, of Nureyev.  She said she had goosebumps in fact!

 

Apparently SP is going to dance ‘Romeo’ to  Alina Cojocaru’s Juliet in Verona – in a ‘re-working’ by Kobborg.   I think that would be well worth seeing if anyone is in, or can get to, Italy at the time.  I myself would find Verona too hot in August or I might be tempted. So, overall, not a perfect experience but we were glad we went.  I’m sharing a photo I took of the curtain call.  By the way, our cheap (row T of the stalls) tickets had a great view!

 

rasputin small.jpg

Edited by maryrosesatonapin
correction of English!
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Thanks for reporting back so vividly Maryrose.  I enjoyed reading your review and I hope to read more about performances you see.

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Thanks for that review. Rasputin is the ballet that might have tempted me to go to see Polunin.

Do you think it's a ballet that you could go and see several times? 

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Had I the opportunity I think I would go once more, but with music-softening earphones :)  I'm sure there were details that I missed.  And there was a lot to enjoy IMO.

 

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The Guardian’s review is anything but positive.  

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Same with the Telegraph!

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Graham Watts tweeted some very positive comments ... I wonder where his review will appear (maybe Bachtrack).

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My partner chatted to the Australian sound-man who was quite insightful about the experience of working with Polunin (whom he said is really different in person from his public persona) and he said they weren't expecting anything other than scathing reviews.  The Guardian review (with which I largely agreed except that it seemed to want to ignore the finer aspects of the performance) put the reason why in a nutshell:  'A world away from the norms of British ballet.'  Yes, there was very little 'normality' :)

 

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4 hours ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

My partner chatted to the Australian sound-man who was quite insightful about the experience of working with Polunin (whom he said is really different in person from his public persona) and he said they weren't expecting anything other than scathing reviews.  The Guardian review (with which I largely agreed except that it seemed to want to ignore the finer aspects of the performance) put the reason why in a nutshell:  'A world away from the norms of British ballet.'  Yes, there was very little 'normality' :)

 

 

Yes, do not go expecting pointe shoes and men-in-tights.  It is contemporary ballet.  And therefore the focus is not on the shape and placement of his legs etc, but what he can do as a dramatic artist, yet still with tremendous technique.  

 

There is much talk of the flying push-ups and skating-style layback spins as well as the usual ballet tricks, which he can do so easily.

 

If you do want to see what good shape/form he is in, I refer you to the recent live performances of Take me to Church and Acteon in Sevastopol (April 2019) and at The Bravo awards in Moscow (March 2019).

 

Back to Rasputin in which Sergei has commissioned original work (choreography, music, designs, costumes, lighting, etc) so that others can have their talent appreciated.  It will possibly surprise you to hear, that he was extremely humble in curtain calls at the Palladium, always stepping back from the line of participants (dancers as well as collaborators) that in the end the others had to push him forward to accept solo applause.  Despite doing the lion’s share of the dancing. 

 

Oh, and I loved the music.  

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1 hour ago, Fiz said:

Okay, I didn't go, but this critique echoes everything I had suspected.  Self-indulgence, fan worship and control disguised as great dancing from a great dancer. It wasn't and he no longer is.  That's it. 

 

Sad doesn't even begin to tap the edges.  If only this mega-gifted young man had had the wit to understand that creative personalities so often need a dose of practical common sense, combined with a work-horse attitude.  He could have had it all for a few years and then, perhaps, gone on to create something that truly did span the bridge between classical ballet and popular dance.  He has ended up failing on all counts and I don't say that as someone addicted to ballet in its strictest sense.  Was there no mentor who could have instilled some self-discipline?  He makes much of his need for independence but this is surely a sham.  He is delivering a watered-down version of what his dancing used to be and presenting it as 'new.'  I am sure there is a marketing term for this but the only one I can think of is fraud.

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2 minutes ago, penelopesimpson said:

Okay, I didn't go, but this critique echoes everything I had suspected.  Self-indulgence, fan worship and control disguised as great dancing from a great dancer. It wasn't and he no longer is.  That's it. 

 

Sad doesn't even begin to tap the edges.  If only this mega-gifted young man had had the wit to understand that creative personalities so often need a dose of practical common sense, combined with a work-horse attitude.  He could have had it all for a few years and then, perhaps, gone on to create something that truly did span the bridge between classical ballet and popular dance.  He has ended up failing on all counts and I don't say that as someone addicted to ballet in its strictest sense.  Was there no mentor who could have instilled some self-discipline?  He makes much of his need for independence but this is surely a sham.  He is delivering a watered-down version of what his dancing used to be and presenting it as 'new.'  I am sure there is a marketing term for this but the only one I can think of is fraud.

Did you read Graham Watts’ review?

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22 minutes ago, Bruce Wall said:

Time for everyone to move on - surely.  

 

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26 minutes ago, Bruce Wall said:

Time for everyone to move on - surely.  

Yes, and no, Bruce.  I'm certainly done and as I won't be attending Polunin performances anymore, I will not be commenting.

 

But we are talking about possibly the greatest dancer of our generation.  This is surely an appropriate topic for a ballet forum?

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1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

Yes, and no, Bruce.  I'm certainly done and as I won't be attending Polunin performances anymore, I will not be commenting.

 

But we are talking about possibly the greatest dancer of our generation.  This is surely an appropriate topic for a ballet forum?

 

Not when it keeps becoming so yawn-worthy because we keep going around in circles about whether said dancer is still the best thing since sliced bread or has destroyed his talent.

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I think as long as the conversation is about those who watched Polunin's dancing for those who are interested in reading such comments it's a valid topic for the forum? Those who aren't interested don't need to read it surely (I don't mean this in an antagonistic way). As long as reviews are honest and written by those who have genuinely attended they are entitled to their opinions. 

 

I haven't seen the show so can't comment, but wouldn't rule out ever watching him live if the programme appealed to me (and if I felt I could separate his politics from his art which I'd like to think I could but I don't wish to re-ignite that debate!). Therefore I'm somewhat interested in hearing what others have to say about his dancing/programme. 

 

To conclude - let's stick to the topic of dance and encourage those who have watched him to comment so others who are similarly interested in either going to the performances themselves, or just simply following a well-known figure in the dance world and their artist output are able to access a diverse range of opinions, not solely the professional critics' reviews. If the conversation goes off topic etc I trust the mods to step in as appropriate. 

 

Anyway I'll shut up now and won't comment further as I haven't seen this show - let's reserve this thread for those who have, and those who would like to engage in discussion on Polunin's dancing and this show generally. 

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My hope - having been to both the earlier productions is that a wider audience will be tempted to see more dance. I suspect that some who came to see the earlier shows went away disappointed because it was nothing like “Take me to Church”.

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4 hours ago, penelopesimpson said:

...Sad doesn't even begin to tap the edges.  If only this mega-gifted young man had had the wit to understand that creative personalities so often need a dose of practical common sense, combined with a work-horse attitude.  He could have had it all for a few years and then, perhaps, gone on to create something that truly did span the bridge between classical ballet and popular dance.  He has ended up failing on all counts and I don't say that as someone addicted to ballet in its strictest sense.  Was there no mentor who could have instilled some self-discipline?...

I am pretty certain SP must have been working VERY hard to put this show on the road.  And I wouldn't call it 'failing on all counts' when he can nearly fill the Palladium at a matinee and wins such rapturous applause.  Like Shade, I hope a wider audience will now be tempted to see more dance.  As you can tell from my review above, I am by no means a Polunin groupie.  But I did give the performance a fair viewing, and tried to be objective in my description.  It is however far from objective to criticise from the viewpoint of not even having been in the audience.

It will be interesting to  see where he goes from here, both as a dancer and as a person.


 

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Graham Watts has written a review that reflects my experience of the 2 performances of Rasputin that I attended, so I won’t repeat the same details.  

 

In my opinion, it’s quite an achievement for a 28/29 year old to commission a choreographer, a composer, haute couture costume designer and a set designer plus dancers, with no established company and funding sources, and to bring it to London to a huge venue such as the Palladium.  What an opportunity it has been for all these young talented people to participate in producing such a good show.  They must be feeling ecstatic.  We should applaud the effort and achievement.  Imagine the pressure on Sergei to pull this off.

 

(By way of contrast I note Matthew Bourne’s new R&J is touring the UK for 3 months getting tweaked, revised and bedded in before appearing in London.)

 

I wish Team Polunin well for their next venture - Romeo and Juliet with Sergei and Alina Cojocaru in the main roles.  Choreography by Johan Kobborg, who will also play Tybalt, I believe.  In the vast Arena di Verona - how appropriate, ‘in Verona we set our scene’.  The set design ideas are looking interesting already (see Johan’s instagram).

 

 

 

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This thread has been started to comment only on the performances at the Palladium ....not on what people think about Polunin in general ..that has already been done to death!!

Perhaps only people who have actually been to the performances or who want to ask questions of someone who has been should comment here .....we don't want another thread being closed!! 

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I had not realised this was a full length three Act Ballet! 

Did people find all three Acts fairly even in terms of content and dancing etc?

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4 minutes ago, LinMM said:

I had not realised this was a full length three Act Ballet! 

Did people find all three Acts fairly even in terms of content and dancing etc?

I wouldn't describe it as a 'three act ballet'.  There were two 30-40 minute halves with an interval.  Personally I preferred the first half for various reasons, but it wasn't terribly uneven IMO.

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Sort of like Anastasia then....although in that ballet the two halves are completely different! 

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1 minute ago, LinMM said:

Sort of like Anastasia then....although in that ballet the two halves are completely different! 

Anastasia is much, much longer.  And not alike at all really ;)

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I meant in form ...two Act ballet!! I'm pretty sure the choreography in Rasputin will be totally unlike Macmillan from what I have read!! 

 

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Posted (edited)

Elena Ilinykh is polunin's current love. i was wondering if he was going to try to make her into a dancer off the ice. it is rather amusing she is billed in appearances as ice dancing champion in sochi, but actually she and her partner came in third. she is pretty good and very dramatic. but they were not the champions, that would have been the americans davis and white.

Edited by redshoesgirl2
spelling

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I've been to the matinee performance of "Rasputin" on Saturday and liked it very much. Sergei is surely a very talented and capable dancer, at some moments he just seemed to be a real Rasputin, at least he managed to create a very impressive and true image of this person. I will be following his creations and would like to see him more.

  Also, I liked a lot Djordje Kalenic (Tsesarevich Alexey), a very promising young man! Alexey Lyubimov (Tsar) and Semyon Velichko ( prince Felix Yusupov) were also fine; can't tell the same about Elena Ilinykh ( Tsarina) - she was very evidently out of this league, very amateur, to my mind, though evidently she did her best.

   All in all, a great experience that gives a lot to think about - also about the Russian/European history. I like the performances that make me want to know more about the subject! So - good luck, Sergei, with future plans and interesting  themes for the new ballets!

   

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