Royal Ballet Quadruple Bill, Royal Opera House, London

The four one-act ballets now on view at Covent Garden are A Very Good Thing. Of course we must see the dinosaurs that form the Royal Ballet’s full-length identity, but not in the abundance that makes the repertory resemble Jurassic Park. Varied opportunities for dancers and for new choreography are the lifeblood of a troupe. So, a murrain on Swan Lake; to the nearest landfill with the next 20 Nutcrackers, and let us see the one-act masterpieces that lie neglected in the vaults and more new works, such as Liam Scarlett’s Asphodel Meadows and Kim Brandstrup’s new Invitus Invitam, which tell us that choreography is a living art in London WC2.

I saw this quadruple bill again this week. Brandstrup’s creation remains a subtle marvel, and the revival of MacMillan’s Winter Dreams an occasion for the Royal Ballet’s artists to show how true and penetrating are their gifts in exploring character. Praise to Marianela Nuñez for her portrait of Masha in this realisation of The Three Sisters, every step a hope, a dream, frustrated. Much praise, too, for Laura Morera as Irina, almost – almost – stealing the ballet from her, and for Mara Galeazzi, all compassionate understanding as Olga.

Nuñez, alas, had to play to the blank wall of Carlos Acosta’s numb, invisible Vershinin; Sarah Lamb, in a touching performance as Masha on Monday, had the advantage of Thiago Soares’s darkly responsive interpretation, and their duets were alive. And let me salute both Jonathan Cope (happily returned to the stage) and Bennet Gartside (who can do no wrong as an artist) as Kulyagin, the mari complaisant, the other true victim of the piece, both giving heart-tearing readings.

In Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, a perfectly formed homage to Petipa, both Tamara Rojo and Nuñez were radiant as the ballerina, the music revealed, illuminated in diamond-clear dance. In the ferocious male solo, made for the tremendous Igor Youskevich (whom I saw, dazzling, in the role), Sergei Polunin provided superlative academic dancing: here was youthful bravura, beautiful in discipline as in power.

Ashton’s La Valse completes this bill: the music drives onward to self-immolation; the cast as yet miss the abandon, the intoxicating urge towards the final cataclysm. Please, sir, can we have some more? Lots more! ()

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