Kings, Kings, Kings!

Most people wait all year for their birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving… I wait all year for Kings of the Dance! If you are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, let me educate you and set you on the right path to enlightenment. Kings of the Dance is a production that features a gorgeous, albeit small selection of some of the most incredible male dancers on this rotating planet. The Kings always tour Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Riga, and Kiev),  and then hit Los Angeles and New York. The Russian and Californian legs are now over so if you are not in New York, might I suggest you sell a child or a kidney, as the Kings will be at City Center in February of 2012, so you have time (just kidding, I don’t really advocate the sale of the young un’s or body parts!)

The Kings are Guillaume Cote (National Ballet of Canada), Marcelo Gomes (American Ballet Theatre), David Hallberg (ABT & now the Bolshoi!), Denis Matvienko (Mariinsky), and Ivan Vasiliev (Bolshoi). Leonid Sarafanov (Mikhailovsky Ballet) is also a King but he didn’t make the LA appearance and I don’t know if he’ll dance NY… you know those crazy Russians. If you are not familiar with each and every one of these boys I’m not sure what to do with you other than send you immediately to YouTube… and hang your head in shame while you type.

The only thing that would make the Kings more perfect would be the inclusion of Manuel Legris – come on, you know I’d get him into this blog post one way or another! But I guess they figure they’ve got the French angle covered with Guillaume being French Canadian and all. Oh well.

*Gratuitous photo of Manu, that’s mostly for me, hahaha!

The Kings were dancing at the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts in The OC. Which is a drive for me but since I usually have to fly 5 hours to get a Marcelo fix, I can’t really complain about a 45min drive. Segerstrom is a really nice venue, a performing arts complex like the LA Music Center or Lincoln Center in NYC. Segerstrom Hall itself is intimate so its a wonderful setting for Kings.

Saturday night was their second show for the day as they also did a matinée and I was told by a reliable source that they barely had time for a meal in between shows and they were somewhat just a tiny bit saddened that it having been a gorgeous Southern California warm and sunny day, they could not go out and play.

There was a pre-show talk featuring Marcelo and Guillaume. Marcelo is so natural and easy in front of an audience. He speaks of dance with such passion, it’s beautiful to listen to him talk about it. The fact that he is gorgeous doesn’t hurt either and there’s such a joy that shines through that only adds to his serious hotness. He talked about who and what the Kings are, the choreographers, the joy of the work. He spoke about his own piece “KO’d” and how he related ballet dancers to boxers, who train for months and may only have a few moments to perform and how they don’t always get the results that they want. He also realized only the other day that “KO’d” can also stand for “Kings of Dance” and was adorably self-amused by this. Marcelo asked Guillaume about dance critics. Guillaume gave a really lovely answer about having room to learn from a perspective of one who watches since he can only see the work from the perspective of within the performance, which I found to be a very astute stance to take. Marcelo was a little less generous, saying that some critics just feel the need to always find something wrong for whatever reason and he rolled his eyes and waved his hands around in mocking exasperation (hmmm, who could he be thinking of, hahaha!). Then they opened for questions and the first two were critic-related, when someone asked the next question not critic-related, Marcelo thanked them profusely, wanting to talk about dance not dance critics. He closed by saying, “Well, we have to go get ready to dance for you now.” It was the perfect beginning for a night of Kings.

The opening piece is called “Jazzy Five” and it is choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti. If you are not familiar with Bigonzetti work go sit in the corner. The music was by Federico Bigonzetti, who happens to be Mauro’s son. This featured all the Kings in a really fun romp that included all of them, some of them, each of them and then all of them again. Did you follow? all, then some, then each, then all… it’s okay because you are going to NYC in February so you can see it for yourself.  Anyway… it was a great piece that gave the boys a chance to show their personalities a bit, play on stage, and dance utilizing both classical ballet and contemporary dance. The boys were decked out in trousers, shirts with collars, and a vest or jacket. It was a look that worked on all of them despite being so different in shapes and sizes. Not just because Marcelo is a reason to live, but his solo was my favorite. Brace yourself. He was shirtless and this is a good thing. Always. Guillaume and Marcelo were on stage and then the transition takes place to Marcelo’s solo with some finger jabbing that becomes very dramatic – the finger pointing and jabbing is worked in throughout the piece, the LA Times critic called it unfunny but I beg to differ as the audience did in fact laugh at appropriately funny times – but back to Marcelo, his piece began in a very dramatic fashion with some incredible Swan-boy moves, he looks right into the audience and just slays.

Then we get an intermission because everyone will need a drink to recover from all the swooning and drooling and we come back to it with David Hallberg – shirtless. Now you know I love David, his feet are things of pure beauty and his line is decadent art, but baby needs some bronzer and a meatloaf, a tray of cookies, two trays… or  maybe just a shirt, he looked great in a shirt/vest combination. He was wearing a black flamenco skirt with some black hot pants underneath. That’s all I’m going to say about that. The dance was by Nacho Duato, who for me is hit and miss… I enjoy some of his work, some of his work can go sit in a cornfield, but that’s strictly my opinion. The piece was called “Kaburias” and it was flamenco inspired, inspired being the key word. I liked it, it gave David a chance to show off his gorgeous feet, his incredible flexibility, and killer line.

Next up was Guillaume in a piece by Marco Goecke called “Tue” which correct me if I’m wrong but that means kills in French… or short for Tuesday in English. I don’t really know but I’ve said it before, I’m not a big fan of Goecke. He has this sort of whimsical, absurdist, dissonance thing going on but it’s lost on me. This was Guillaume dancing to these French songs sung by Barbara, there was a lot of twitching and flinching. I was certain that Guillaume was giving himself a serious headache but he seemed quite pleased at the end so I suppose not. Guillaume is a great dancer, I’m not down with the piece. But I applaud Guillaume because he rocks.

More Marcelo! Marcelo did a work by Jorma Elo called “Still of King.” It was an interesting play on classical ballet as it was Marcelo doing a one-man show to Haydn music that included classical and contemporary dance mixed together to sort of spoof on a full length narrative classical story ballet. It was quite clever and captured the attention. It reminded me of Vestris which Denis Matvienko did in Kings last year. Ah, good times.

I was really excited for the next piece not so much for Ivan Vasiliev but to see what Patrick De Bana had come up with for him. I love Patrick’s choreography and I knew that he wouldn’t disappoint… and he didn’t. He put Ivan to work in way that really showcased him beautifully. There were a few nice jumps and spins that are Ivan’s thing but Patrick is more than that and also gave Ivan a lot of real movement with, of course, signature De Bana steps. Of course, the crowd went crazy for Ivan. I get a little tired of that, a good jump is great but if I was in it for the tricks I’d go to the circus, ballet is more than how fast you can turn and how high you can jump. The piece was called “Labyrinth of Solitude” and the music was Vitali. It was a great piece and Ivan was quite cute. On a side note, Carboy decided for some unknown reason that Ivan did not look Russian but was Puerto Rican. So whenever I wanted to get Carboy to realize that I was talking about Ivan, I had to refer to him as the Puerto Rican dancer. I have no idea.

Last up was Denis Matvienko. Seriously, why do people in this freaking country not know who Denis Matvienko is!?!?! I love him and Anastasia. He has got such a beautiful classic Russian style and he has this way of exuding such warmth and calm happiness from the stage. His every move is extraordinarily regal, very old school, even when playing around, but his smile says “It’s all good, no worries.” Russian on the outside, Rasta on the inside. He danced a piece called “Guilty” by Edward Clug to Chopin. **pause** I don’t know what that was but Denis got robbed. This piece was Denis wandering around, mildly gesturing, and then lying on the floor. What the… Denis can dance, the man is Russian, he can move like Ivan, what the… we were robbed, Denis and I! Last year Denis did insane barrel rolls across the stage that ended with that crazy Russian kickback-thingy… I have no idea what it’s called but he caused jaws to hit the floor audibly, he rocked it out and this year we get him lying on the floor twitching???

Last was Marcelo’s piece “KO’d” with music by Guillaume, yeah,  you read right… Guillaume the composer. And the music was really beautiful. We even got treated to a few moments of Guillaume playing on a grand piano! I’m going to be honest and tell you it wasn’t the best choreography I’d ever seen, it seemed more like a work in progress… on its way to something awesome and then the playfulness took over. But it was fun and the boys looked like they really enjoyed it, enjoyed dancing with each other, and enjoyed being there, what more can you ask for really.

Standing O through the house… Ivan got the biggest rush of applause. Honestly if the other boys had more to work with it, they would have all gotten that kind of reception, but I sort of felt that this year’s Kings choreography, with the exception of Patrick, held back a bit, was more subdued than it really should have been. After all Kings is a celebration of male dancers and boys jump and spin and make some noise and get something going! That being said, it’s also interesting to see a progression with Kings, that it isn’t just going to be the same old thing rehashed every year, that it will continue on, morph and develop over time. And that’s pretty awesome.

Because it’s just the way I roll (yeah, right!) my little name was on the backstage list and I very trepidatiously ventured back there only to wimp out completely! It was quite pathetic and I think I lost all the stalker points that I earned with my Manu pen and my Manu marker. But the boys looked so very happy lingering on stage for a bit and they seemed to genuinely like each other and that was really neat to witness. But it also seemed like they were in their own well-earned moment and as much as I really wanted to there seemed to be something wrong in invading that just for an autograph – plus, I didn’t have a pen. Which was made sadder by the fact that I did have a t-shirt – a t-shirt but no pen. Suck. Just as I was about to hightail it back to normal people land, Denis came walking toward me, turns out I was standing next to his warm-up booties. I said hi, he said hi, I said, incredible show, he said thank you, I sort of snuck away, I think he laughed at me. It was kind of awesome. Of course from now on I WILL keep a Sharpie with me at all times, maybe even two, one as a backup Sharpie just in case. Did I tell you about how my Sharpie started to dry out waiting for Manu in Tokyo? No? Well, thank peaches it was a double-ended marker and Manu was patient and sweet because my marker started to go dry but I was able to flip it around and Manu did his best to sign right on top of the original faded looking “Manuel” so my autograph sort of looks like it has a shadow. And I love it all the more.  But wait, wasn’t I talking about Kings…

Here is the Ardani Artists website with great information and photos of the Kings of the Dance, enjoy!

7 thoughts on “Kings, Kings, Kings!

  1. wait– you didn’t even GO backstage?? lorry- wtf?? ok, honestly- i probably wouldn’t either……..i’d probable feel like a dork.
    fabulous post, btw 🙂 especially loved the bit about the pre-show chat.

  2. ps- i saw marcelo’s solo on youtube and as much as i love marcelo (and you know i do, and most of the rest of the world knows i do) i was not that crazy about the choreography :/ maybe it plays better live. not that he didn’t dance it brilliantly.
    and bummer about matvienko’s solo. really i’m not a fan of that type of choreography- i just don’t get it.

    • Yeah, the choreo this year was a bit strange to be honest. I do like contemporary dance, quite a bit as a matter of fact, but I don’t get just wasting a whole lot of Russian talent with some meandering and twitching! What I thought was great about Patrick’s work for Ivan was that it reflected both of them. It was definitely a De Bana special but you could see that Patrick appreciated that Ivan is a jumper and a turner and integrated that for him; it let Ivan show off a bit. David’s piece did allow him to display his extension and line and show a bit of dramatic flair so that was good for him, but I felt like the other guys didn’t really get that opportunity.

  3. Great post! OMG Marcelo. I needed to fan myself during his shirtless, sweaty Jazzy Five section. “Swan-boy” is right… I was totally thinking of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake during it. But yes, I totally agree… Denis and a couple of the others got kind of short-changed choreographically.

    I think we had similar seats! I was in A7, so just behind yours. And hey, KOTD T-shirt… I totally want one! (LOL, Marcelo was wearing one during his talk, and I was like, “I wanna be just like Marcelo!”) 🙂 Did they have merch at the performance? ‘Cause I was looking hard but couldn’t find any that day.

    • Thanks! Did I not say life changing!!! Did you like the Guillaume/Goecke piece? Denis was robbed I tell you! He’s really awesome, I wish you could have seen him in his element.

      That’s so funny, literally one row apart 😀 I got the shirt from directly from Ardani Artists. They weren’t printed to sell, only for the artists, choreographers, production crew, etc. They had a couple left and Armen Danilian is really cool about stuff like that… he had 2 more left and only in men’s size large. Definitely follow Ardani on twitter, which is Armen posting for them. Last year I got a poster and a “making of DVD” Kings for free and I was in NY so I was able to just pick it up from their offices in City Center and while there got to flip through the Diana Vishneva book that had just been completed at that time. DM him on Twitter and see if they still have any left!

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