Project Polunin performed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Narcissus and Echo
Sergei Polunin

The London-based Project Polunin aims to create new dance works through collaboration with contemporary artists, musicians and film-makers. Sergei Polunin recently said, “The long goal of Project Polunin is to develop a team who can look after dancers, who can give them good representation, to listen to what they want to do and advise them.” And poignantly, “Dancers need more help. It’s the shortest job, the hardest job, and you have so little time to gain the most out of it. Dancers can’t afford to make mistakes with their careers but it’s ridiculous how they are treated compared to other artists. They are always at the bottom of the pile and they are taken advantage of. The show at Sadler’s Wells is a first step. It’s important to stimulate dancers and give them a platform to work with different artists from different fields.”

Noble words and ideals. Sadly the debut production, whose objective was to challenge perceptions of dance through live performance, didn’t quite hit the spot. A triple bill of classical and modern works, it featured Vladimir Vasiliev’s Icarus: The Night Before the Flight (performed by Osipova and Polunin) and Tea or Coffee, a company piece by Andrey Kaydanovskiy. The world premiere of Narcissus & Echo, expected to be the highlight, is a collaboration between Polunin, the composer Ilan Eshkeri and David LaChapelle, who of course directed the video of Polunin dancing to Hozier’s Take Me to Church.

Project Polunin performed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Narcissus and Echo

This piece was a camp fantasy looks-wise, both the nymphs’ and the Theban boys’ costumes redolent of cheap-looking panto mixed with a stage set that looked like an explosion in a new age shop, – the costumes and set making it at times hard to appreciate the actual dancing. Maybe just like a carefully retouched and edited Instagram image, dripping knowing sarcasm, it would work on social media – on the vast stage, not so much.

Project Polunin performed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Narcissus and Echo

Yet there were beautiful moments: the nymphs, out of their panto garb and clad simply, seemingly in scattered diamanté, enticing Narcissus into the lake resting on their outstretched arms; Echo, as danced by Natalia Osipova, (Polunin’s on/off partner IRL), was especially exquisite: her barely-there costume a wisp of smoke and raindrop-like diamanté, softly accentuating the steps that spoke of her pain at not being able to break through to Narcissus.

Project Polunin performed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Narcissus and Echo
Natalia Osipova

His fate is to shun true love in pursuit of the perfect image, hers to continue to repeat the words of others for eternity. Remind you of anything? Just like the social media that inspired this version of Narcissus & Echo, versions of our carefully ‘curated’ selves are forever preserved in the cloud. And all those ‘inspirational’ banalities, written in cursive on a pretty pink background, that you posted, Echo-like? They are there too.

Project Polunin is at Sadler’s Wells, London.

Sergei Polunin |
Project Polunin

Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 March 2017

Performances: Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday at 2.30pm

Tickets: £12 – £60

Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com

Words by Anna Bang

Tags

David LaChapelle, Project Polunin, Sergei Polunin,