For anyone who thinks ballet is all about tutus and swans, Kings of the Dance is the ideal show to challenge expectations. Five of the world’s top male dancers — Ivan Vasiliev, Marcelo Gomes, Roberto Bolle, Denis Matvienko and Leonid Sarafanov — show ballet’s great athleticism, comedy and drama across seven short works.
Opening the bill is Remanso, a trio choreographed by Nacho Duato. Playfully interacting with both an opaque screen at the back of the stage and Enrique Granados’s bright piano score, the dancers’ movements are cleverly constructed with moments of surprise and humour keeping us smiling and entertained.
The closing act is less exciting, though Vasiliev’s superb leaps (that are frequently the dancer’s own height off the floor) make up for less appealing choreography. Gomes’s KO’d also works well and is a fitting finale and showcase for all five dancers.
The evening’s undoubted highlight is Le Jeune Homme et La Mort (pictured), a narrative work in which a depressed young man is seduced into committing suicide by the temptress charms of Death (Svetlana Lunkina). Roland Petit’s choreography is extremely powerful, and both Vasiliev and Lunkina give impassioned and compelling performances. It’s the memory of the latter’s gloved hand preparing a noose and gesturing to our tormented jeune homme to take his life that lingers at the end of the performance.
Kings of the Dance is at the London Coliseum until 22 March. Tickets priced £15-79 are available here. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review this show.