Satori, the latest iteration of his ambitious, Serbia-based Project Polunin, is currently installed at the London Coliseum; and though not quite as painful as the project's first outing it is, to put it mildly, not good.
Like last time, the Ukrainian dancer has assembled an ad hoc company of international dancers, starring the Royal Ballet’s glamorous Russian Principal (and Polunin’s former girlfriend) Natalia Osipova.
The other thirteen dancers come from a series of European companies, and include Laurretta Summerscales, English National Ballet Principal currently dancing in Munich, and two of the Royal Ballet’s bright stars, Akane Takada and Valentino Zucchetti.
They are given a chance to prove their mettle in Scriabiniana, a little known work to music by Scriabin choreographed early in the 20th century by the Russian Kasyan Goleizovsky, who was born exactly 125th years ago this year.
The reason why it’s little known soon becomes apparent. This is a seemingly endless collection of dances mostly for couples, with the occasional quartet and a couple of solos. It has no set and no theme; the choreography is old-fashioned, cliché-laden and often fusty – in short, it's best forgotten. On this occasion the quality of the dancers varies considerably.
Summerscales is her usual reliable self; and, of course, once Osipova takes to the stage for her solo your attention perks up. She is delightful, in spite of a truly kitsch glitzy, gauzy and fussy lilac costume; a high point in an otherwise drab serving.
Natalia Osipova in Scriabiniana, photo Tristram Kenton
Satori, though, is primarily about Polunin. The first piece of the night is the seven minute First Solo, where an earth-bound Polunin emotes violently to the sound of a male voice declaiming a Russian poem in a scratchy recording. He rolls around, stretches his arms, punches the air, rolls some more, his heavily tattooed naked torso arching and convulsing.
According to Polunin’s own programme note, First Solo is ‘a deeply personal meditation on the duality of the artist’s life…’ - stress deeply personal. The choreography, such as it is, comes from Andrey Kaydanovskiy
The final piece, Satori (after which the whole programme is named), is Polunin’s own creation, choreography and all. It has a set inspired by Japanese philosophy - 'satori' is a Japanese concept meaning 'a sudden state of enlightenment.' A giant tree to the left, flowing curtains; and lots of dry ice.
Polunin, this time barefoot and in a white suit, spends a lot of time just walking about the stage.
This is seems to be a personal - yes, personal again! - journey towards enlightenment. In the process he meets a child and his mother, most likely signifying the dancer’s own childhood.
Sergei Polunin in Satori, photo Tristram Kenton
Whatever dancing there is - and there isn’t much - reveals that Sergei Polunin is no longer the breath-taking, exceptional, mind-blowing dancer he once was. That sense of soaring effortlessly in space is gone: his leaps are now laboured and standard. His technique can be shockingly shoddy, as is the case with a series of turns a la seconde where his leg trails limply at 45 degrees in a display that even his child co-star bettered on the night.
And choreography isn’t his forte either.
Here’s the thing, though: none of the above matters at all. To the numerous contingent of fans in the audience Sergei Polunin can do no wrong. The romantic appeal of the “bad boy of ballet” clings to him like a second skin. Regardless of its glaring deficiencies, Project Polunin sails on, held aloft on hype if not quality or merit
|What||Project Polunin Satori Review|
|Where||London Coliseum, WC2N 4ES | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
05 Dec 17 – 09 Dec 17, 19:30 Sat mat 14:30 Dur.: 1 hour and 30 mins with one interval
|Price||£400-£20 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via the Coliseum website|