Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Pennefather’

Cinderella, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, November 2010

21 November, 2010

One of the lovely things about Ashton’s Cinderella is the intermingling of the real world with the magical world. This makes it ideal for Christmas or Easter, when everyday life for many people is invested with a little magic.

Marianela Nuñez as Cinderella, photos by Tristram Kenton

Act I starts with poor Cinderella by the fire, and the party preparations of her ridiculous step-sisters. An old crone comes begging and the poor girl’s sympathy for her is rewarded when the old woman reappears . . . and the magic starts. One transformation follows another: the crone turns into a fairy godmother, she causes the house to disappear, and then ushers in the fairies of spring, summer, autumn and winter, with the sets transforming between each one. The soloists on this first night (Iohna Loots, Yuhui Choe, Samantha Raine and Hikaru Kobayashi) all did well, and Choe was outstandingly warm and musical as Summer. So many transformations in a single Act, yet there is one more to come as the pumpkin turns into a coach, which then takes a beautifully transformed Cinderella off to the ball.

Rupert Pennefather as the Prince

In Act II the real and magical worlds alternate, and Rupert Pennefather as the prince seems to inhabit both, as does Paul Kay as a brilliantly acrobatic jester. Those ugly sisters now reappear, and when Cinderella later comes on looking like a princess, Gary Avis as the taller sister casts an embarrassing glance at his own garish costume. He and Philip Mosley interacted superbly with one another as the sisters, and Avis was gloriously over the top without ever descending into pantomime or farce. The comic timing was perfect. On the magical side, Laura Morera was a lovely fairy godmother, and Marianela Nuñez was wonderful as Cinderella, both as a simple house-slave and as the queen of the ball — a true fairy-tale character.

This production by Wendy Somes contains some clever ideas such as the moon transforming into a clock in Act I when the fairy godmother warns that the spell will break at midnight, and then the clock in the ball scene — invisible from the Amphitheatre — shows itself in the lighting on the dance-floor so the whole audience can see it. The transformation of Cinderella’s clothes from a brilliant white tutu to rags is done in a split second, and the poor girl flees as the curtains close.

Paul Kay as the Jester

Act III again mixes the mundane and the magical, and some clever effects are achieved with Mark Jonathan’s lighting. I like the dappled pink effect in the auditorium during the overture, and the dappled white at the end, as the prince and his bride recede into the distance. For an evening of enchantment you won’t do better. Ashton’s choreography is magical — the fairy-tale entrance of Cinderella to the ball as she comes down the stairs en pointe in ethereal splendour, the brilliant asymmetry of the twelve stars … one could go on and on.

Prokofiev’s score was beautifully conducted by Pavel Sorokin, and further performances are scheduled for November 24, 27 and December 2, 3, 9, 13, 17, 21, 28, 29 and 31. Other dancers in the role of Cinderella are: Yuhui Choe, Roberta Marquez, Tamara Rojo and Lauren Cuthbertson — for more details click here, though tickets seem to be almost entirely sold out. If you miss it in 2010, another run of performances is arranged around the Easter period — April 7, 10, 12, 13, 16, 19, 23, 25, and May 3 and 6, but booking is not yet open.

Royal Ballet Triple: Chroma, Tryst, Symphony in C, Covent Garden, May 2010

22 May, 2010

This triple bill was beautifully danced, and the first and last items are very strong ballets. What a shame there were so many empty seats, but those who are eligible should be aware of the student standby tickets, where excellent seats on the main floor could have been purchased for £10.

Chroma, photo by Johan Persson

Chroma is a modern dance work choreographed by Wayne McGregor for four women and six men. It’s strikingly asexual, in the sense that boys and girls frequently make the same movements and are clothed in identical grey costumes. The opening was very well danced by Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson, I loved the pas-de-deux performed by Steven McRae and Yuhui Choe, and there are plenty more such male-female duos, but male-male ones too. For example in one scene there are five seemingly identical couples on stage, but only four female dancers. There is also a pas-de-trois for three boys, and later three simultaneous male-female-male pas-de-trois. The ballet lasts just under 25 minutes, and the leaps, twists and multiple partnering works well. The music was composed partly by Joby Talbot, partly by Jack White III, all arranged by Joby Talbot and orchestrated by Christopher Austin. The six male dancers were: Ricardo Cervera, Steven McRae, Ludovic Ondiviela, Eric Underwood, Jonathan Watkins and Edward Watson, with the four females being: Yuhui Choe, Mara Galeazzi, Sarah Lamb and Laura Morera. The dancing was first rate, and Daniel Capps conducted the music with lyrical energy. My only question is why it’s called Chroma, meaning ‘colour’ in ancient Greek, but as the lady next to me said, ‘achroma’ would be more suitable in view of the grey costumes and white background. I’m told the background gives a different effect from the main floor, but from the Amphi it’s just flat and white.

Melissa Hamilton and Eric Underwood in Tryst, photo by Bill Cooper

The title of the next work, Tryst, is easy to explain. The choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon was driving across Scotland while the radio played a composition of that name by James MacMillan. It’s rhythmic intensity, coupled with a lovely adagio passage, struck him as being well-suited to ballet, so in April and May 2002 he created this work. The designs by Jean-Marc Puissant are beautifully asymmetric with splashes of colour, and the lighting by Natasha Katz shows interesting variations. I very much liked the central slow section, which started with Melissa Hamilton dancing a solo on stage while a silhouetted male figure walked slowly across the front. As the light changed it turned out to be Eric Underwood, and they danced a lovely pas-de-deux. The ballet is a mixture of classical and modern dance, so its second place on the programme is entirely appropriate, but it seemed a slight let-down after Chroma. The music, conducted by the composer, I found interestingly atonal. Apparently it began life as a folk melody for a poem of four verses called The Tryst by Scottish poet William Soutar.

Symphony in C with Pennefather and Nuñez, photo by Bill Cooper

Finally Symphony in C was a delight, as usual. George Balanchine created it in 1947 for the Paris Opera Ballet, to Bizet’s music of the same name, and recreated it in New York the following year. The original had different colours for the four movements, but in the recreated version the girls are all in white tutus with the men in black. This is a magnificent ballet requiring eight principals, sixteen soloists and a substantial corps de ballet, so it can show off a classical company to great advantage, and the dancing here was superb. The four principal couples, one for each movement were: Sarah Lamb with Steven McRae, Marianela Nuñez with Rupert Pennefather, Yuhui Choe with Sergei Polunin, and Laura Morera with Edward Watson. It seems almost invidious to single out anyone, but Sergei Polunin’s leaps were extraordinarily strong and graceful, and Edward Watson danced with terrific attack. This is a beautifully constructed ballet by Mr. B, and after we have seen all four sets of dancers, they return one after another, and then combine in a finale. Bizet’s music was well conducted by Dominic Grier.

My final remark is that putting on this triple bill is quite a feat. Three different conductors, dozens of dancers, many with difficult roles — the Royal Ballet surpasses itself, and the auditorium should really be full to bursting.

Royal Ballet Triple: Electric Counterpoint, Asphodel Meadows, Carmen, Covent Garden, May 2010

5 May, 2010

Pennefather and Nuñez in Scarlett's fine new ballet Asphodel Meadows, photo by Johan Persson

Asphodel Meadows is a very interesting new ballet by Liam Scarlett, to Poulenc’s Concerto in D minor for two pianos and orchestra. There were fourteen dancers plus three principal couples, one for each movement of the concerto. The first was beautifully danced by Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather with lovely elegant movements, the second more spicily by Tamara Rojo and Bennet Gartside, and the third fluidly and fast by Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera. Costumes were leotards for the boys and simple skirts and tops for the girls, bluish/beige for the fourteen dancers, with dark brown, charcoal, and crimson, in that order, for the principals in the three movements. I thought the designs by John Macfarlane were excellent, as was the lighting by Jennifer Tipton. It all lasted a little under 25 minutes and was a delight to watch. The title is interesting. Asphodel is a type of lily, and the name is from ancient Greek. Meadows of asphodel appear in Homer’s Odyssey (Book XI, line 539), where Odysseus travels to Hades and encounters the shades of dead heroes.

Sarah Lamb and Edward Watson in Electric Counterpoint, photo by Dee Conway

This new ballet was sandwiched between works that were performed within the last two years. The programme started with Christopher Wheeldon’s Electric Counterpoint, to music by Bach and Steve Reich, played by Robert Clark on the piano and James Woodrow on the solo guitar. It appealed to me much more than when I saw it in early 2008, though the cast was almost identical, with Edward Watson, Sarah Lamb, Leanne Benjamin and Eric Underwood — last time, Benjamin’s role was performed by Zenaida Yanowsky. In the first part each dancer appears alone, starting with Sarah Lamb. There is a wall facing the audience on which is projected another version of Sarah Lamb, dancing as if she were a mirror image. Gradually, however, the dancer and her image go disconcertingly out of phase with one another, but later there is little connection between dancer and image. During this first section, along with the piano music by Bach, there is a recorded voice-over by the dancer who is performing, giving personal details of their life and motivation. In the second part the wall facing the audience vanishes and there is another wall at an oblique angle, with four doors through which the dancers appear. The electronic music is accompanied by guitar, and there is pas-de-deux work as well as solo dancing. It lasts thirty minutes, which I found well spent, and I liked the designs by Jean-Marc Puissant and the lighting by Natasha Chivers.

After seeing this, followed by Asphodel Meadows, the evening didn’t need spoiling with Mat Eks’ dreadful Carmen, and I’m delighted they put it as the third item on the bill, so I could happily leave.

Triple Bill: Concerto, The Judas Tree, Elite Syncopations, Royal Ballet, March 2010

24 March, 2010

These three ballets by Kenneth MacMillan are from different stages in his career, and form a nicely eclectic triple bill.

Steven McRae in Concerto, photo by Johan Persson

Concerto was created in 1966 for the Deutsche Oper Ballet in Berlin, one year after his full-length Romeo and Juliet. The music is Shostakovich’s second piano concerto, a lively, witty work, played here by Jonathan Higgins under the baton of Dominic Grier. It starts with a bassoon and two oboes, closely followed by the piano as the dancers step out into the first movement, where the principal couple was Yuhui Choe and Steven McRae. Both danced beautifully and I thought she was particularly graceful. In the adagio of the second movement, Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather gave a wonderfully smooth performance. They reappear in the third movement, as do Yuhui Choe and Steven McRae, along with Helen Crawford. There are three levels of dancers in this ballet, the principals in orange leotards, the second level in red and the third in yellow. Watching them all from the front of the Amphi one could see very clearly the precision of their placing on stage, and the whole effect, like the music, was ebulliently energetic.

Carlos Acosta in The Judas Tree, photo by Johan Persson

Carlos Acosta in the Judas Tree, photo by Johan Persson

Edward Watson and Leanne Benjamin in the Judas Tree, photo by Johan Persson

This fine start to the evening was followed by MacMillan’s last and perhaps darkest and most brutal work, The Judas Tree, to music of Brian Elias, written relatively freely without a set scenario. I find it a powerful dance work, on the themes of betrayal and guilt, showing MacMillan to be a master craftsman when it comes to using abstract movement to tell a nasty story. The action involves a foreman and thirteen workmen on a building site in a run-down part of town. Leanne Benjamin, as a provocative and skimpily dressed young woman, seems to have a mutually abusive relationship with Carlos Acosta as the foreman. He ignores her and she flirts with one of his friends, portrayed by Edward Watson, the two of them forming a bond together. The action is very physical and aggressive, with fights among the men and an assault on the woman, who finds some protection from Edward Watson and another friend, portrayed by Bennet Gartside. In the end she is gang raped by the other eleven workmen, and when she blames the foreman, he murders her, then beats up and murders the friend represented by Edward Watson. In a final act of guilt the foreman climbs up the scaffolding and hangs himself. There’s a Biblical, or at least gnostic Christian, background to all this, and when the girl reappears at the end as a wraith-like figure it signifies the indestructibility of the purified soul, but . . . it can simply be taken as a story to be interpreted as one wishes. MacMillan’s choreography is done with his usual finesse, and Acosta, Watson and Gartside all performed it very well in their interactions with one another. Watson in particular portrayed his character very sympathetically, and Leanne Benjamin was superb in her physically demanding role, maintaining integrity and stage presence throughout. Both these two had danced their roles before, unlike the others, but there was also a direct link from the original production in 1992 to the present cast as Irek Mukhamedov, who created the role of the foreman, helped in coaching this revival.

The final item of the evening, Elite Syncopations, MacMillan created in 1974 immediately after his full-length ballet Manon. Where Manon deals with seduction, rape, robbery and violent death, albeit in the context of a great eighteenth-century romantic novel, this is a light-hearted, almost flippant work. The dance is performed to rag-time music, mainly by Scott Joplin, played by a jazz band at the rear of the stage. They and the performers are dressed in extremely colourful and elaborately stylized costumes by Ian Spurling, and the whole effect is delightful fun. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and the dancing was glorious. Mara Galeazzi was the first female soloist, and Sarah Lamb the second. Both were excellent, and Lamb danced very well with Valeri Hristov in the waltz. Laura McCulloch and Paul Kay were hilarious in their deliberately absurd Alaskan rag, and the dancing could hardly have been better, until suddenly Steven McRae came on for his solo and was electrifying, with excellent precision and attack, and superb musicality.

If you need a reason to go to the ballet, the final item alone is worth the price of the ticket, but there are only six performances of this triple bill, with the last one on 15th April.

Romeo and Juliet, Royal Ballet, January 2010

13 January, 2010

What a relief this was from the Maryinsky’s old Soviet pantomime Romeo and Juliet last August. Kenneth Macmillan’s version is the choice of several ballet companies, and with its designs by Nicholas Giorgiadis forms a fine response to Prokofiev’s wonderful music.

Tamara Rojo as Juliet

The cast for this first night of the present run was a strong one headed by Tamara Rojo, whose portrayal of a convincingly distraught Juliet at the end could hardly be bettered. She was very well partnered by Rupert Pennefather, whose elegant and youthful Romeo was equally convincing. Gary Avis was terrific as Tybalt, never overstepping the line into pathological irascibility, as sometimes happens. He was always controlled, while smouldering with mockery at the Montagues, and rage at Romeo.

Romeo’s friends Mercutio and Benvolio were very well danced by José Martín and Sergei Polunin, and in fact Polunin was the best Benvolio I ever remember seeing. His first sword fight in Act I was superbly on the music. David Pickering portrayed an anxiously callow Paris, Genesia Rosato was an excellent nurse, and Elizabeth McGorian a suitably dramatic Lady Capulet. A couple of comments on the more minor roles: Brian Maloney was superbly musical as the soloist in the Mandolin Dance, and the three harlots were all well danced by Laura Morera, Samantha Raine and Francesca Filpi.

Boris Gruzin in the orchestra pit did a superb job, giving the dancers ample musical stimulation. Tamara Rojo will be dancing Juliet again on January the 16th, presumably with Pennefather who replaced Acosta in this performance,  so any available tickets should be snapped up. If you miss that performance there are plenty more, with a whole range of Juliets, some of whom will be very good indeed — Cojocaru, Benjamin and Nuñez particularly spring to mind.

Les Patineurs and Tales of Beatrix Potter, Royal Ballet, December 2009

15 December, 2009

These two delightful ballets by Frederick Ashton are a joy to watch. He was a choreographer with a sense of humour, and his inventiveness is well revealed in both works. This is a revival of the double bill from last year, and performed by very similar casts.

Les Patineurs is to music by Meyerbeer, arranged by Constant Lambert, and Ashton’s choreography gives a wonderful impression of ice-skating. Steven McRae danced the boy in blue, giving him a very boyish feel, and the elegant couple in white was stylishly portrayed by Rupert Pennefather with Sarah Lamb. The soloists in dark blue dresses were Yuhui Choe and Laura Morera, making a fine pas-de-trois with McRae, and Yuhui Choe was spectacular on her own. McRae’s fouttés were wonderfully done, and Paul Murphy in the orchestra pit kept the music going at a good smooth pace.

In Tales of Beatrix Potter, with its uplifting music by John Lanchbery, we had a range of excellent dancers, their faces of course invisible behind the masks. Jonathan Howells was a charming Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, the same as last year, and Gary Avis was once again an excellent Fox, this time with Samantha Raine as Jemima Puddle Duck. Bennet Gartside and Laura Morera again danced beautifully as the loving couple Pigling Bland and Pig-Wig. Johannes Stepanek was Peter Rabbit, and Ricardo Cervera repeated his role of Johnny Town-Mouse, but this time with Bethany Keating as Mrs. Tittle-Mouse — both were suitably stylish. The naughty mice, Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb were amusingly performed by Iohna Loots, who did the same role last year, and Ludovic Ondiviela. The male solos for Jeremy Fisher and Squirrel Nutkin were danced by Kenta Kura and Paul Kay. It’s impossible to compete with McRae’s provocative Nutkin from last year, and I’m afraid I thought Kenta Kura was off the music as Jeremy Fisher, but the little mice, danced by junior associates of the Royal Ballet School, were utterly superb. This is presumably their star role for the year, and no matter whether or not they go on to join the company they can all be immensely proud of their performances. What a joy it was to watch them!

Nothing can compare to John Lanchbery conducting his own music to this ballet, but Paul Murphy did well, and the designs by Christine Edzard and masks by Rostislav Doboujinsky continue to charm.

Review — Royal Ballet Triple Bill: Agon, Sphinx, and Limen, 13th November 2009

14 November, 2009

Marianela Nuñez as the Sphinx in Tetley's ballet Sphinx, Royal Ballet photo by Bill Cooper

This was a second visit, my first being on opening night. The dancers were the same, partly because of injury, although Sphinx should have had an entirely new cast. But this time I was close to the stage in the Stalls Circle, so things looked different. I’ll say nothing further about Agon, but make a few more notes about Sphinx and Limen.

In Egypt sphinxes represented power and vigilance, guarding temples. In Greece however there was but one mythological sphinx, represented with a female head and breasts, lion’s body, eagle’s wings and serpent-headed tail. In short a monster that was said to guard the city of Thebes, killing any traveller who could not solve the riddle it asked. In Cocteau’s 1934 play La machine infernale the Sphinx challenges her own destiny. Weary of immortality she desires love and freedom, and takes the guise of a young woman. She falls in love with Oedipus and tells him the answer to the riddle, enabling him to continue to Thebes and follow his destiny. Glen Tetley’s ballet Sphinx was inspired by Cocteau’s play, which he saw in New York in 1950, and he composed the choreography for just three dancers: Oedipus, The Sphinx, and her guardian Anubis, who warns her against falling for Oedipus. Once again Edward Watson was immensely powerful as Anubis, and Marianela Nuñez was a superb Sphinx, but from close up Rupert Pennefather was disappointing. He seemed to be going through the correct motions, but the dance didn’t come from within. In a part like this he needs a greater identification with the character —he needs to own the role.

Wayne McGregor’s new ballet Limen is in two parts, and I liked the first half with the bright costume tops. These disappear in the second half where the lighting is low and the on-again off-again blue lights distract from the action. In the dim light some of the dancers are stationary with their backs to the audience, while one or two dance around them. Apart from the fact that the screen came to the front with its lights mostly on, there was no resolution, but I would have preferred one, particularly since this was the last work of the evening.

Triple Bill — Agon, Sphinx, and Limen, Royal Ballet, November 2009

5 November, 2009

Melissa Hamilton and Carlos Acosta in Agon, photo by Bill Cooper

Agon is a Greek word meaning ‘contest’, and this 1957 Balanchine ballet is for twelve dancers who perform in twos, threes, etc. without any story. The music by Stravinsky is interestingly varied, some parts strongly represented by wind instruments, and others very quiet. The main pas-de-deux towards the end was brilliantly performed by Carlos Acosta and Melissa Hamilton, who continues to impress as a rising star in the company. In the two pas-de-trois we had Johan Kobborg with Yuhui Choe and Hikaru Kobayashi, and Mara Galeazzi with Valeri Hristov and Brian Maloney. The dancers all performed beautifully, and Daniel Capps did an excellent job conducting the orchestra.

Sphinx is a ballet by Glen Tetley to music of Martinů, originally choreographed for American Ballet Theatre in 1977. It’s based on Jean Cocteau’s La machine infernale, a reworking of the Oedipus myth, exploring the conflict between free will and fate. There are three dancers, the Sphinx, Oedipus and Anubis, the jackal-headed god who shepherds the dead into the Egyptian underworld. The choreography for the two men is intensely physical and both Edward Watson as Anubis, and Rupert Pennefather as Oedipus, danced like gods, while Marianela Nuñez was an attractively seductive sphinx. This was the first performance of the work by the Royal Ballet, and it used the original designs by the late Rouben Ter-Arutunian, with costumes by Willa Kim and lighting by John B. Read. The costumes were very effective, making the men look as if they were dancing naked, but with painted bodies.

Limen is a new ballet by Wayne McGregor. The title refers to the threshold of some physiological or psychological response, and we were presented at the beginning with dancers behind a transparent bluish screen. On the screen were projected single digit numbers of various sizes — like those on an LED display — that moved and changed value. The costumes by Moritz Junge were colourful tops with shorts, well set off by Lucy Carter’s lighting, which at one point showed thick bright coloured stripes from one side of the stage to the other. The choreography combined strong physicality alternating with moments of calm, but towards the end I found the production distracted me from watching the dancers. A screen with a matrix of small blue lights at the back of the stage moved very slowly forward, and as it did so some lights went out, while others came on. I’ve seen mysterious on-off lighting on stage before, but the trouble is that I’m always trying to work out the pattern and this distracts me from the dancing or singing that is the main point of the work. Obviously the lights were meant to recall the screen at the start, because as they came closer I could see that each light was a small single digit number. Presumably one has now gone over the threshold to a new level of reality.

The choreography fitted very well with the lovely music by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, conducted by Barry Wordsworth, who was also the conductor of the previous ballet Sphinx. Since this ballet was brand new, it was danced by a very strong cast of fifteen, including Edward Watson, Steven McRae and Eric Underwood among the men, and Leanne Benjamin and Marianela Nuñez among the women. It works well, but Wayne McGregor seems to have too strong a predilection for screens that distract from his choreography.

Jewels, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, June 2009

9 June, 2009

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This 1967 Balanchine ballet is in three parts: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. Mr. B originally hoped that the jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels might bankroll the ballet, and although that never happened, they did sponsor this Royal Ballet production two years ago. The staging is simple yet effective and in each part the costumes, reflecting emeralds, rubies, and diamonds, are delightful.

Emeralds is to Fauré’s incidental music for Pelléas et Mélisande. In this strange tale by Maeterlinck, Mélisande is found by a stream in a forest, like a naiad, and the green of emeralds recalls both the forest and the watery world from whence she comes. The leading couple were Tamara Rojo and Valeri Hristov, with Leanne Benjamin and Bennet Gartside as the second couple, and Deirdre Chapman, Laura Morera and Steven McRae in the pas-de-trois. They all danced extremely well, particularly Tamara Rojo, Leanne Benjamin and Steven McRae, as did the supporting artists, and this was a wonderful start to the evening.

Rubies is to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra. The racy choreography involves a pas-de-deux for a central couple, in this case Alexandra Ansanelli and Carlos Acosta, who were full of vivacity, looking as if they were really enjoying themselves. They are complemented by another woman, in this case Laura McCulloch, who plays a temptress role, and she and the lead couple take it in turns to accompany the supporting dancers. Again the ensemble work was excellent.

Diamonds is to music from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 3, which was his last composition before starting work on Swan Lake, and the ballerina is like a diamond in glacial splendour, a precursor to the cold beauty of Odette in Swan Lake. The principal couple, Alina Cojocaru and Rupert Pennefather were brilliant. He danced like a god, with great precision and a lovely line, and she was simply delightful. They were attended by: Yuhui Choe, Hikaru Kobayashi, Helen Crawford and Emma Maguire, as the four soloists, whose dancing was a delight to watch, as they inter-weaved with one another on stage. Again the ensemble work of the other dancers was superb, and this was altogether a terrific evening with a wonderful cast. Valeriy Ovsyanikov conducted with great brio and precision.

Les Sylphides, Sensorium, The Firebird, Royal Ballet, May 2009

5 May, 2009

Firebird–banner

This was a lovely triple bill, with a new ballet by Alastair Marriott sandwiched between two well-known works by Mikhail Fokine.

The first item, Les Sylphides was very well danced, with Johan Kobborg and Yuhui Choe doing an excellent job as the principal couple. They were backed up by Laura Morera in the waltz, Lauren Cuthbertson in the Mazurka, and Iohna Loots and Bethany Keating as leading sylphs, not all I’m afraid as musical as Yuhui Choe. But with good technique it’s difficult to go wrong with Fokine’s glorious choreography and Chopin’s wonderful music.

Sensorium, choreographed by Alastair Marriott to music of Debussy, was a sensuous and cleanly performed dance work that lasted almost half and hour, and didn’t flag for a minute. The costumes were simple leotards for the girls and full length leotards for the two men, Thomas Whitehead who danced with Leanne Benjamin, and Rupert Pennefather who partnered Alexandra Ansanelli. All danced well, as did the ten girls who backed them up, and Pennefather in particular showed a lovely line, and very clean technique. One fault was that dancers moving across the front of the stage were in the dark, but otherwise the lighting, designed by John Read, gave just the right texture for this work.

Finally The Firebird was a terrific show of colour, with Mara Galeazzi heavily made up for the part of this magical bird. Her dancing however seemed to lack fluidity, and Thiago Soares as the Tsarevich did not cut as strong a figure as he might. But Elizabeth McGorian was a lovely Tsarevna, and Gary Avis was simply superb as the immortal Kostcheï. The supporting cast did a very fine job, and this might have been a successful Firebird were it not marred by Barry Wordsworth’s sloppy conducting — the music is Stravinsky and should sound like it.