Dancer and producer Ivan Putrov’s Against the Stream is an enjoyable showcase of works by choreographers who, to a greater or lesser extent, bucked balletic tradition and brought the form into the 20th century.
This being a starry gala, canonical outliers don’t feature, but there are a couple of choreographic curios, including a pas de trois from Kenneth MacMillan’s Shakespeare-inspired Images of Love. Its tortured erotic energy occasionally clunks towards camp, but Putrov and Royal Ballet dancers Matthew Ball and Mayara Magri commit commendably to its fervent expressionism and fleshy entanglements. The latter couple also enchant with gorgeous musicality in Frederick Ashton’s Awakening pas de deux, a 1968 addition to The Sleeping Beauty.
Joaquin de Luz gallivants jazzily through Jerome Robbins’ Suite of Dances, set to Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites, performed on stage by Urska Horvat. It’s a compelling combination of baroque complexity, balletic formalism and Broadway capering, a fascinating and virtuosic collaboration between musician and mover.
Disappointingly, parts of the evening fail to ignite. New York City Ballet’s Tyler Angle and Maria Kowroski seem underpowered in Robbins’ In G Major, a leggy longueur. There’s a faintly disconsolate air to Balanchine’s Diamonds too, in which Kowroski is partnered by Marcelo Gomes. He dances with swaggering aplomb through Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite, but it’s nonetheless a tedious paean to rumpled machismo.
It’s English National Ballet soloist Katja Khaniukova who steals the show, Soviet-style, along with Bolshoi-trained Dmitry Zagrebin. In the Diana and Actaeon and Flames of Paris pas de deux, they thrillingly combine butane-hot pyrotechnics with down-to-earth charisma.