DANCE / Star-crossed and starry: Judith Mackrell on the English National Ballet's productions of The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet at the RFH

Every year, English National Ballet thumbs its nose at superstition by refusing to throw away its Christmas tree till long after Twelfth Night. At the Royal Festival Hall, London, the company's snow- and sugar- frosted production of The Nutcracker continues its annual run until 22 January, with a constantly changing roster of casts to keep the dancers sane.

There are, in fact, so many cast changes that followers of ENB may be pushed to recognise a familiar face on stage. In addition to all the dancers recently brought into the company by the new director, Derek Deane, the season has been pepped up with international guests. Tuesday night thus saw American Ballet Theatre's Susan Jaffe as the Snow Queen, with the Royal Danish Ballet's Thordal Christensen as the Nutcracker Prince (replacing another guest, the Bolshoi's Yuri Klevstov), plus one of ENB's more or less permanent dancers, the Brazilian-born Cecilia Kerche.

This rent-a-star policy can look glamorous on paper, less so on stage, and Christensen proved to be a lanky, dozy-footed Prince with a disposition towards melancholy and a style of partnering that made you occasionally grit your teeth with anxiety. Jaffe, however, whisked cleanly and elegantly through her role, dignifying some of the tackier moments of Ben Stevenson's choreography with good grace. And if Kerche's Sugar Plum Fairy lacked a glow of benevolence and fantasy it was danced with unarguable power and assurance.

The Royal Ballet has also been playing safe in the post-Christmas season with a short run of Romeo and Juliets. Last Thursday Leanne Benjamin danced her first Juliet, casting the role in a peculiarly childlike key. It's one of the brute facts of dance that a performer's body is what makes the first and most immediate impact on a role. Benjamin is tiny - though by no means fragile - so when you first see her bouncing around with her Nurse she has no trouble looking exactly like a just-pubescent girl.

Benjamin's build and extraordinarily high jump also make her look weightless when she's partnered by the various men who mark out her destiny - intensifying the impression that she's a child in an adult world. But if this apparent vulnerability gives extra poignancy to the ballet's close - Juliet really does look too young to die - it means that the ballet's darker, sexier resonances are lost. When Benjamin refuses to let Romeo leave after their first night together, it's as if her girlish will, rather than her body, hungers for him. She hasn't graduated to being a woman.

All the same, the innocence of Benjamin's portrayal made a harrowing contrast last Thursday with Stephen Jefferies' Tybalt. Jammed into a permanent rage of hatred, greedy for vengeance and blood, the latter seemed a phenomenon, a force for evil against which the lovers had no chance. Even his death, made vividly obscene by Jefferies, asserted that violence was more real and more powerful than love - giving an extra grim pessimism to the ballet's surface story of star-crossed romance.

Box office: 071-928 8800

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment