Goyo Montero’s Asunder leads the way in Diana Vishneva’s Context Festival

Sadler’s Wells, London
March 12, 2019

Maggie Foyer

Context Festival is the dream project of Diana Vishneva and a truly extraordinary event, exciting not only for the range of works but also the range on the quality scale. It was fortunate that it closed on Goyo Montero’s, Asunder, an exceptional work, as the four new works from Project X which opened the evening, served more to prove just how difficult is the elusive art of choreography.

Asunder, performed by seventeen dancers from Perm Opera and Ballet, was commissioned for the Context Festival 2017 in Russia. Montero uses the group as an organic whole that lives and breathes, sometimes led by a soloist but mostly the power emanates from the group dynamics. The choreography is masterly, structuring the shifts in fluid patterns and movements that seem to grow naturally from the bodies. The lighting by Nicholas Fischtel, with Montero, enhances the drama to keep the work intensely alive. The dancers, moving with the release we expect from contemporary dancers, gave exceptional performances. The music, composed by Owen Belton with reworked material from Wagner and Chopin, offers snatch of well-known melodies in a package of contemporary sounds.

Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre in Asunder by Goyo MonteroPhoto Mark Olich
Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre in Asunder by Goyo Montero
Photo Mark Olich

It has an extraordinary close. First, a false ending as the audience switch sides to view the performers’ backs as they take their calls upstage. A curtain falls behind them and a gauze in front. Then, to the sound of tearing and shredding, the dancers scurry like rats into the dark space between, caught in shards of light and we are left with the final distressing image of dancers beating the gauze with their fists. It’s a riveting work that deserves to be more widely seen that just this one-night showing.

Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes in Vertigo by Mauro BigonzettiPhoto Evgenia Basyrova
Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes
in Vertigo by Mauro Bigonzetti
Photo Evgenia Basyrova

Diana Vishneva’s appearance was a necessary part of the evening and she did not disappoint. Vertigo by Mauro Bigonzetti is a duet revisited from an earlier piece written for the ballerina now given new life as she performs it with her regular partner, Marcelo Gomes.

It has a tetchy start as the two beautiful athletic bodies posture and pose but then it finds its métier as a contemporary love duet, Gomes maintaining a rock-solid base for Vishneva’s sensuous extensions and enfolding arms. It continues to be punctuated by fractious moments until wrapped in a final intimate moment, he carries her off.

Letter to Rudy features excerpts from director Kirill Serebrennikov’s ballet Nureyev choreographed by Yuri Possokhov. Denis Savin as the eponymous hero and Shipulina Ekaterina as Natalia Makarova were so true to the characters both in gesture and looks that the effect was uncanny.

The work is accompanied by the letters of the title, two from Paris Opera colleagues, Laurent Hilaire and Charles Jude, one by dance partner, Alla Osipenko and one by Natalia Makarova. They are read in Russian and, although the English translations are given in the programme it would add to the understanding of the work if there had been subtitles.

The dancers suggest rather than offer full out dance performances, but Savin managed to capture something of Rudi’s magnificent feline run that was so mesmerising while Ekaterina similarly caught the essence of Makarova in her arms; and the distinctive scarf adds the final touch. The hints of greatness make this an immersive dance drama and made me eager to see the full ballet.

Denis Savin as Rudolf Nureyev in Letter to RudyPhoto Evgenia Basyrova
Denis Savin as Rudolf Nureyev in Letter to Rudy
Photo Evgenia Basyrova

The four short choreographies, despite the obvious quality of the dancers, seemed to be more work in progress, exercises in choreography still searching for meaning and over reliant on clever lighting and props. I found most substance in Pavel Glukhov’s Light in November, a male duet danced by Glukhov with Yuri Chulkov that had some innovative choreography and development. All four choreographers are award winner at international competitions but on the strength of this one showing there still seem much work to be done.