Country Life's dance critic reviews Diana Vishneva: On the Edge.
Which would you rather see, a great ballerina in work she has commissioned to display her talent, or Shakespeare in Russian? Already aware of the dancer’s artistry and her international standing—formerly a member of the Maryinsky Ballet, she has now joined American Ballet Theatre—I expected Diana Vishneva: On the Edge to deliver the more intriguing choreography. But I was wrong.
Like Sylvie Guillem, who has achieved enormous success outside the standard repertory, Ms. Vishneva commands a magnificent technique and a compelling presence. Though the combination may have inspired Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Switch and Carolyn Carlson’s Woman in a Room, it couldn’t rescue them from banality. The first, which she shared with two excellent artists from Les Ballets de Monto Carlo, reduced her to an overwrought vamp striding, wild-eyed, through layers of sexual confrontation and emotional angst.
The second, a moody solo that flickered between fierce determination and lilting good humor, relied on her charisma to connect costume changes, light-hearted skipping, a slow mournful adagio, and the halving of some fresh lemons with a sharp knife. Despite all the posturing, I didn’t see much expressive dancing in all this pretentious choreography, which made me wonder if Ms. Vishneva has terrible taste or if those pieces were the best she could afford.
There’s only an occasional waltz in Cheek by Jowl’s Measure for Measure, yet that production flows on a continuous current of movement that sweeps us into the story’s cruel momentum. Performed in modern dress by a company of 13 speaking a language most of the audience doesn’t understand, the play unfolds for two unbroken hours with absolute dramatic clarity. A silent crowd of observors whirls repeatedly around the stage like the funnel of a tornado, swallowing one group of players as it tosses out another for the coming scene. Props, costumes, locations, even the characters each actor portrays, change invisibly in the unpredictable whirlwind that gives substance to the narrative’s breathless pace.
Gestures and posture say what speech leaves unsaid. Sometimes, against the odds, the most unlikely sources yield a more satisfying experience of dance than dance on its own.
Measure for Measure remains at the Barbican until 25 April. www.barbican.org.uk/theatre
Monte Carlo Ballet in Jean-Christophe’s Romeo and Juliette, 23-25 April, London Coliseum. www.eno.org
Sasha Waltz & Guests present d’avant, mixing contemporary choreography and medieval music on a construction site, 6 and 7 May at Queen Elizabeth Hall. www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Titanium, a fusion of flamenco, hip hop and break dancing occupies the Peacock, 5-23 May. www.sadlerswells.com
Tate Modern and Sadler’s Wells collaborate to show Musée de la danse, performances and installations by the French choreographer Boris Charmatz, 17-20 May. www.tate.org.uk/dancingmuseum and www.sadlerswells.com
Sylvie Guillem’s farewell programme, Life in Progress, reaches Sadlers Wells on 26 May and tours internationally to 20 December. www.sadlerswells.com