Dance

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The Independent Culture
English National Ballet, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton 18-30 Nov; Scottish Ballet's Nutcracker, New Theatre Hull 19-23 Nov.

Turkeys are starting to get anxious, chipolatas tremble in their boots, Christmas is almost upon us. Just as the endless round of Christmas lunches makes for an unvaried diet, so the Christmas ballet season feeds its audience on deeply traditional fare. There will be at least four Nutcrackers doing the rounds this winter. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Tchaikovsky's beautiful score, an obligingly elastic scenario and charming seasonal appeal make it a genuine pleasure, as well as a seasonal standard.

Ballet dancers can get a bit tired of it, though, and most companies try to vary the mix by adding other family ballets to the repertoire. The Royal Ballet has Cinderella (getting an airing this winter) and English National Ballet now has Alice in Wonderland.

As Christmas treats go, ENB's Alice is almost entirely icing. Having eschewed any hint of Dodgson's unhealthy obsession with Liddell, which Lindsay Kemp found so irresistible, you are left with a string of episodes featuring a small girl in an apron and lots of peculiar characters. That said, Sue Blane's designs are beautifully conceived and exquisitely made. Carl Davis has made a sort of Russian salad of Tchaikovsky, which is perfectly pleasant, and Derek Deane's choreography is charming. Faint praise perhaps, but if you live in the Southampton area and you haven't booked yet, you need to get organised. It sells out everywhere it goes.

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