Sarah Wildor
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The Independent Culture
My gynaecologist's wife was the first person to mention it. Sarah Wildor definitely had something, confided this Opera House groupie a few years ago. The enraptured ballet critics agreed. Wildor's debut as Juliet, tucked away in a November matinee, prompted reviews that quivered with excitement. Comparisons with Lynn Seymour were made. A starlet was born. Actresses get six performances a week plus matinees in which to fine-tune their interpretation of Juliet; ballerinas get one, maybe two performances a season. Sarah Wildor danced Juliet once in 1993, once again in 1994, but her impassioned reading of the part seemed to spring fully-formed from her exquisitely proportioned frame. Now she tackles Giselle.

For some years, emphasis on the Royal Ballerinas has focused on their legs rather than their acting abilities. The rising profile of a dancer like Sarah Wildor, coupled with a new dramatic depth in the hitherto frigid beauty of Darcey Bussell's performances, make the next few weeks at the Opera House an exciting prospect. Sarah Wildor makes her debut as Giselle at the matinee performance of Saturday 18 February and dances again on Wednesday 8 March. Romeo and Juliet is replacing the scheduled revival of The Prince of the Pagodas. Darcey Bussell gives four performances of Juliet (17 & 22 Feb, 10 & 15 April).

On paper, Bussell is too tall for Juliet, a role MacMillan built on the compact little body of Lynn Seymour. In practice, her vulnerability is surprisingly apt and reminds us that choreography is not a matter of size but of proportion.

Royal Opera House. See listings for details