I wonder why Darcey Bussell and Igor Zelensky, presenting a joint programme, do so little together in it. Neither of them in fact is in the evening’s longest piece, Whispers in the Dark, which is performed by six soloists of the Novosibirsk Ballet, now directed by Zelensky. They look like good dancers but are spoiled by Edwaard Liang’s choreography, fussy and lacking patterns.
The two stars begin the show with their individual numbers. Bussell has a seven-minute duet, Kiss, specially made by Alastair Marriott to recorded bits and pieces by Samuel Barber. Partnered by William Trevitt - a late substitute for injured Rupert Pennefather - and wearing a skimpy leotard by Adam Wiltshire, she poses and is manipulated in brief sequences inspired by by Camille Claudel, Rodin’s lover and pupil. It’s rather slight, but the opposite problem afflicts Zelensky’s solo Concerto Grosso (Handel). Eighteen continuous minutes for one dancer is excessive - much of it must be limited in exertion and Alla Sigalova’s choreography doesn’t sustain its occasional ingenuity enough to counter this.
The stars finally come together for a revival of Roland Petit’s Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, the sensational dance-drama invented by Jean Cocteau in 1946 for Jean Babilee, greatest dancer of his generation. It doesn’t really come off but that’s true in my experience of all recent restagings except the Paris Opera’s. Bussell tries to hide by her acting that she has too nice a nature for the bitch who drives her artist lover to death. Zelensky’s dancing puts too much emphasis on quick, small movement and not enough on desperate passion. Both might look better with the original Christian Berard costumes and a more authentic reproduction of Wakhevitch’s studio setting than this over-decorated version hired from Milan.
The lighting all evening was abysmal and the announced Russian Orchestra of London somehow disappeared. Altogether a disappointing presentation from two such stars.