Dance: ROYAL SWEDISH BALLET London Coliseum

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The Independent Culture
For its London debut, the Royal Swedish Ballet has chosen the light, bright fare that is Rudolf Nureyev's production of Don Quixote. With its unwieldy narrative bolstered by bravura divertissements and the cheap thrill of Minkus's hummable tunes, Don Quixote is the kind of ballet that exists mainly as a showcase for an attractive pair of lovers - in this case, Kitri and Basilio. The Don's dual cruel affliction of pride and maladroitness is evident in every wooden but genuine gesture of chivalry, but it is the hazardous passage of Kitri and Basilio's courtship that forms the ballet's central theme and allows it to culminate in a wedding celebration which remains in full, glorious swing as the curtain descends.

If the Barcelonian fishergirls / men of the harbour square seem, initially, like the average scene-setting contingent of any ballet, it is during the finale sequence of mercurial finger-clicking plumbline bounces from foot to knee that the corps is satisfyingly unified.

There's nothing wrong with these dancers, it's just that they're disappointingly ordinary. Sweden may well be full of blond gods and goddesses, but very few of them belong to the Royal Swedish Ballet. Even the principals - small, sallow Jan-Erik Wikstrom in the role of Basilio, and sturdy, raven- haired Madeline Onne as Kitri - contradict the cliche of the fair Swede blessed with a fine bone structure, just as the hand-clapping joyfulness and slapstick comedy of Don Quixote sits at odds with the myth that casts the Swedes as a nation of suicides.

The real discovery of the evening is 25-year-old Wikstrom, who lets Basilio's sense of mischief extend into the pure dance of his solo variations. We see him at one point testing his balance in a trade-mark arabesque in profile, while John Lanchbery, conducting his own arrangement of the score, obligingly slows down the tempo. It's an act that, on Wikstrom's part, is perilously close to the autonomous and often self-indulgent musicality more associated with and tolerated in Russian dancers.

But then, this inordinately plain, if absolutely competent and respectable, company can accommodate an exuberant risk-taker such as Wilkstrom who is unafraid to set himself challenges that most dancers restrict to the privacy and safety of the studio.

n To 8 July (booking: 0171-632 8300)