As part of the 2009-2010 season of Gloria Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center, fans of the ballet, and of male dancers in particular, witnessed the North American debut of Kings of the Dance, which had been touring Russia before paying a visit to L.A. The “Kings” in question are six male stars from various dance companies around the world.
The program provides a rare opportunity to see some brilliant dancing by some excellent specimens of male dancing prowess. So often in ballet the attention is on the Prima Ballerina (such as Natalie Makarova or Gelsey Kirkland), with her male partner somewhat in her shadow. Nureyev and Fonteyn were exalted as a pair, and Nureyev and Baryshnikov had brilliant solo careers, so this is not to say that there were no great leading male dancers; in fact that is who is in this troupe. What I love seeing, and I haven’t really seen since Bejart, is a program that celebrates the male dancer.
The cast of Kings is a highly international one: Jose Manuel Carereno (Cuba, American Ballet Theatre), Guillaume Cote (Canada, National Ballet of Canada), Marcelo Gomes (Brazil, American Ballet Theatre), Joaquin DeLuz (Spain, New York City Ballet), David Hallberg (USA, American Ballet Theatre), and Dennis Matvienko (Ukraine, Marinsky Ballet of St. Petersburg, formerly the Kirov), with a special appearance by Desmond Richardson who was a star of the Alvin Ailey Company and was praised by the New York Times as “one of the great modern dancers of his time.”
Each dancer was unique and brought his own training, experience, and artistry to the mix, as a soloist, in a pas-de-deux, and lastly as a member of a male corps.
The choreographers represented were a mixture of old (Aston, Petit) and new (Duato, Fernandez, Houghland, Elfman, and Wheeldon). The demands made by these choreographers varied greatly but all the dancers handled the challenges well.
The dancers stated in a brief film that preceded the concert that they were all excited to get the chance to work with other great male dancers. It is difficult to single any out, but standouts for me were the agile DeLuz from Spain, who did some amazing twirls, and the sheer magnetic athleticism of Richardson.
This was a great evening of dance and I hope it is repeated with new “Kings” as they emerge. Kings of the Dance played the Ahmanson Theatre Feb. 16th and 17th.