DANCE

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The Independent Culture
The Royal Ballet performs at 1pm on 5 Jul, and 2.30pm & 7.30pm on 9 and 11 Jul. Royal Opera House, London WC2 (0171-304 4000)

The Royal Ballet returns from Japan to give its last Covent Garden performances before the redevelopment of Royal Opera House. Thereafter, the ballet company will enjoy a nomadic existence, camping out on various unloved London stages such as Labatt's Apollo and the Royal Festival Hall.

The company's chosen Covent Garden swansong is a quadruple bill. Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove was written for the young Soviet defector Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1976, and exploited his classical gifts to the full while subverting them with a modern, jazzy nonchalance. Tetsuya Kumakawa can carry off the steps, but the ghost of Baryshnikov still haunts every performance.

William Forsythe's Steptext was originally danced by Deborah Bull when the Royal Ballet acquired the work in 1995. Punishingly athletic and saucily aggressive, the work was one of Bull's biggest successes. How galling, then, to have sexy Sylvie Guillem, in a blood-red crushed velvet catsuit and an extraordinary yellow wig, dance the lead a year later. Guillem made the role entirely her own, conjuring an intriguing menage a quatre from Forsythe's dislocating exchanges. Her last performance in December was standing room only. At the back of the Stalls Circle, critics rubbed shoulders with her adoring fans, many of whom stayed to cheer their idol then went home at the interval. Guillem dances in Steptext at 7.30 on 9 and 11 July.

This time last year we were promised Irek Mukhamedov and Miyako Yoshida in The Talisman pas de deux but a last-minute balls-up over the orchestration led to an 11th-hour cancellation. Let's hope it goes ahead this time.

The quadruple bill concludes with the sparkling Symphony in C. Fans of odious comparisons should look out for the Kirov's allegedly unconvincing account of the ballet later in the month and for San Francisco Ballet, who bring the piece to the Edinburgh Festival in August.

Correction: Last week's piece on English National Ballet was by John Percival

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