On the minus side, galas are punishing for the dancers, who have to perform on a bare stage and make their dancing shine devoid of context; and the attempt to bring something new to the established mix can throw up some truly ghastly material.
This year’s Ballet Icons Gala fell mostly on the positive side. The format dictates that each Act starts and ends with virtuoso, crowd–pleasing numbers, and so Act I started with the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake, danced by La Scala Milan prima ballerina Nicoletta Manni and Dutch National Ballet principal Jakob Feyferlik.
Nicoletta Manni and Jakob Feyerlik in Black Swan Pas de Deux. Photo: Jack Devant
Manni is a very strong technician and her Odile was satisfyingly sexy. Feyferlik was a suitable partner, if a tad overshadowed by her obvious brilliance. A good start to whet the appetite for what was to come.
Similarly, Act II started with the pas de deux from Paquita, danced by English National Ballet’s Ukrainian first soloist Katja Khaniukova partnered by the flamboyant Francesco Gabriele Frola.
Everything seems to come easy to Khaniukova, her exciting dancing peppered with knowing glances to the audience as if to say, ‘see what I can do?’ For his part Frola is every inch the showman, delighting in virtuoso jumps and tricks, though on occasion he lacks control and finesse.
The finale of Act I garnered the loudest applause of the evening, and how could it not, when it was performed by the Royal Ballet’s sublime pairing of Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov? They brought us their unsurpassed musicality, smooth and stylish technical prowess and perfect partnering in the final pas de deux from Don Quixote.
Vadim Muntagirov and Marianea Nuñez in Don Quixote. Photo: Jack Devant
Le Corsaire (pictured top) is, of course, the staple par excellence of ballet galas, and performed here by Dutch National Ballet’s diva Maia Makhateli and Daniil Simkin, a Russian principal with American Ballet Theatre, it brought the evening to a rapturous end with its extravagant thrills and spills.
In between there was good, bad and average. On the good side, definitely The Royal Ballet’s Marcelino Sambé and Yasmine Naghdi in a section of Wayne McGregor’s Chroma; Lucía Lacarra and Matthew Golding in Snow Storm, a very Russian romantic wrenching farewell pas de deux choreographed by Yuri Possokhov; and the dashing Sergio Bernal’s solo Overture, a piece of stylised flamenco which surely had every female heart in the house (and a few male ones, too, for sure!) beating faster.
Sergio Bernal in Overture. Photo: Jack Devant
Average, though entertaining enough, was the neo-classical Vivaldi Summer pas de deux choreographed by Italy’s veteran dancer Giuseppe Picone for himself and Liudmila Konovalova.
The real turkey of the evening was Mauro Bigonzetti’s brutish Passo Continuo, performed by Filipa de Castro and Carlos Pinillos of Portugal's National Ballet Company.
You have to wonder what persuaded them to pick a piece that makes them look like prehistoric cave people, with no dance value at all, if by dance you understand something more than two people throwing themselves about.
No matter, there was enough in this year’s Ballet Icons Gala to send even the most demanding balletomane home happy.
|What||Review: Ballet Icons Gala 2021|
|Where||London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, , London , WC2N 4ES | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
On 26 Nov 21, 19:00 Dur.: 3 hours inc one interval
|Website||Click here to book|