The Times “Sartori” Review Dec 8, 2017 – Sergei Polunin
The Times “Sartori” Review Dec 8, 2017

The Times “Sartori” Review Dec 8, 2017

Dance review: Satori at the London Coliseum

Despite its naivety, Sergei Polunin’s melancholic, reflective and heartfelt autobiographical ballet is genuinely affecting

Sergei Polunin in Satori, the latest show from his Project Polunin
Sergei Polunin in Satori, the latest show from his Project PoluninTRISTRAM KENTON

The dancer Sergei Polunin has taken the adage “write what you know” literally in his latest production. Satori is the name of the evening he has curated and the name of the autobiographical ballet that fills its second half. This 40-minute premiere is a psycho-drama based on a life that has been frequently documented in print and was the subject of the 2016 documentary Dancer.

It’s rich pickings indeed. Leaving his family behind when he came to the Royal Ballet School as an adolescent (and not knowing a word of English), the wayward, tattooed and supremely talented Ukrainian, famous for his “bad boy of ballet” tag and his stroppy exit from Covent Garden, has always seemed a lost soul.

That’s certainly the impression that emerges from Satori, a 40-minute journey (set to music by Lorenz Dangel) into the psyche of a man yearning for happiness and searching for the peace that eludes him. Polunin, dressed in a light suit and open shirt, is responsible for the choreography, although what there is (pirouettes and jetés mostly) is minimal and repetitive.

For the most part he acts out, with aching sincerity, a maelstrom of emotions while being taunted and haunted by demons. There’s a mother figure (Ljiljana Velimirov), a love interest (Natalia Osipova) and a young boy (Tom Waddington) who represents the hopes and dreams of childhood. Despite its naivety, Satori, melancholic, reflective and clearly heartfelt, is genuinely affecting.

The programme (a great improvement on the bombastic folly he presented at Sadler’s Wells this year) opens with First Solo (2017), a seven-minute work created by the contemporary Russian choreographer Andrey Kaydanovsky and danced by a bare-chested Polunin in full-on angst mode “as the man who seeks freedom from the dance that enslaves him”. The choreography is feeble, although the performance was sincere.

We move up a notch with Scriabiniana (1962), from the Russian dancemaker Kasyan Goleizovsky, who died in 1970. Polunin features only briefly in this overlong and highly emotive series of small vignettes, well performed by guests including Osipova, Valentino Zucchetti and Akane Takada from the Royal Ballet, and Yaoqian Shang from Birmingham Royal Ballet, among a cast of 11. The lush Scriabin score is played by the Orchestra of English National Opera, conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

The dancers luxuriate, there’s a bit of drama to liven proceedings, and Osipova’s buoyant solo enchants. Polunin has a grandstanding Spartacus moment to keep his fans happy.
Box office: 020 7845 9300, to December 10

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