“A galaxy without stars would be complete darkness, a costume without Swarovski crystals has no magic.” So says Brett Alan Nelson, costume designer for the World Premiere of Sergei Polunin’s Narcissus & Echo at London’s Sadler’s Wells theatre from March 14–18. It’s a sentiment that could equally be applied to Polunin himself. How dull the world of ballet would be without this prodigiously exciting talent, originally from the Ukraine.
Inspired by Classical mythology, Narcissus & Echo tells the story of the wood nymph, Echo, who loved the beautiful yet vain hunter Narcissus, and how both die from unrequited love. Throughout the 40-minute piece, co-created by the dance star and photographer/artist David LaChapelle, Polunin shone as Narcissus. It was a performance that matched the megawatt dazzle of the crystals highlighting his every move. The hunter was as captivating as his reflection, clad in an imperial purple costume with boots accented with gold crystals, and carrying a golden, crystallized bow and arrow. He made an enchanting contrast to Echo—the wood nymph character played by Polunin’s real-life love, Natalia Osipova—who wore a nude catsuit beaded all over with silver crystals and topped by a glittering butterfly headpiece.
Supporting the two principles was a world-class cast of nine nymphs costumed in crystallized nude catsuits with fluid Greco-Roman draping. They brought a powerful sensuality to the performance: every graceful step, every spin and leap, saw them shimmering in crystalline blues, purples, greens, pinks, and yellows, as well as stones featuring the iridescence of Swarovski’s famous Aurora Borealis effect. We’re told that it took 350,000 crystals to achieve the magical mood. If Brett Alan Nelson’s aim was to give every dancer a supernatural, fairy-like quality and to create an enchantment beyond dance, then he succeeded brilliantly.
Images: Courtesy of Drew Shearwood