Kings of the Dance

February 16, 2010

“Kings of the Dance”
Ahmanson Theatre

Los Angeles, CA

February 16–17, 2010

Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf

Desmond Richardson in Dwight Rhoden’s Lament. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy “Kings.”

Bromance was in the air—of the royal kind. At least that’s what was intended when seven of the ballet world’s top male dancers got together for some show and tell. Having produced the original “Kings of the Dance” in 2006 (then numbering four), impresario Sergei Danilian, in upping the ante, didn’t quite succeed in pulling off a royal flush in this North American premiere, but instead delivered a program akin to “Kings Lite.”


Sure, there was plenty of testosterone-fueled power, grace, and agility on display, but the two-hour concert with two intermissions, suffered from uneven pacing, poor lighting, and little interaction between the noblemen. As for choreography, the highs, indeed, were Olympian, but little seemed 21st century, although Roland Petit’s Morel et Saint-Loup, from 1974, proved ahead of its time.

Featuring Pilobolus-like contortions and muscular lifts tinged with homoeroticism, the work provided National Ballet of Canada’s Guillaume Côté and American Ballet Theatre’s Marcelo Gomes swoon-worthy moments. Côté was also joined by Ukranian dancer Denis Matvienko, ABT’s Jose Manuel Carreño, and New York City Ballet’s Joaquin De Luz, in Christopher Wheeldon’s For 4, a quartet made on the original “Kings.” More trifle than truffle, the piece, set to Schubert, was nevertheless a means for flaunting individual firepower, with leaps, lines, and lyricism on view.


Strutting kingly stuff in Frederick Ashton’s 1978 Dance of the Blessed Spirits, ABT’s David Hallberg infused the work with timelessness, wowing with deep lunges, helium-like jetés, and achingly beautiful arched feet. So, too, did guest artist Desmond Richardson summon nobility in Dwight Rhoden’s Lament (2000), a study in sculptural poses and fluid kineticism.


Solos continued with Gomes twitching through Adam Hougland’s 2009 Small Steps and De Luz tossing off triple turns in David Fernandez’s Five Variations on a Theme (2008). Less successful: Leonid Jakobson’s 1969 comic solo, Vestris, danced by Matvienko; and Igal Perry’s Ave Maria (2001), performed by Carreño.


Joining forces in Nacho Duato’s Remanso, Hallberg, Côté, and Gomes brought requisite aristocracy and eccentricity to the 1997 trio that also featured a large rectangular stage prop, a rose, and pliés aplenty. (As with Wheeldon’s For 4, the cast of Remanso changes with each performance.)


The grand finale saw the septet in supercharged macho mode, traversing the stage in all manner of balletic moves. No female audience members hurled their panties at these iconic men in tights, however, but were happy, instead, to merely ogle such abundant, er, gifts.