Footsies rally in the City

City Ballet of London Peacock Theatre

For a ballet company struggling to operate without a grant of any kind, Lady Luck comes top of the guest-list. But she must have been looking the other way this week when City Ballet of London lost its valued patron, Lord Rothermere, the day before its London opening. Businessmen have been a lifebuoy to the Ballet's director, Harold King, over the last 20 years. As many times as the company has run out of money, it's been refloated on a tide of goodwill drummed up by the canny King among his corporate chums. As London's only touring classical dance troupe, it hasn't been too hard to convince sponsors of why it ought to survive; there's a big audience for mainstream ballet out there. The only niggling doubt, among critics at least, has been the uneven quality of some of the dancers and some of the work. The latest programme - a triple bill - doesn't altogether clear up that niggle. On the evidence of Wednesday's opening night at the Peacock, it contains some of the shakiest, as well as some of the most splendid, classical dancing seen in a long time.

It's a mystery to me why Balanchine is such a favourite opener in a mixed bill. Ballet companies tend to use him in the way pianists use a Mozart sonata to set a context of blithe classical purity before the meatier stuff gets underway. But just like Mozart, Balanchine is merciless in exposing weaknesses in the performers' stamina, precision and style. In his Donizetti Variations, which opened this show, City Ballet's corps was exposed to a painful degree. The olde worlde romance of the piece was undermined at every turn by wobbly balances and fixed grins, and a bizarre toe-stubbing incident reminiscent of a send-up by the Trocks. The young principals, Joanne de Souza and Vitali Malko, were so tentative in their pas de deux one could only assume that the otherwise excellent de Souza was terrified Malko would drop her.

Things took a dramatic upturn, though, in a commission by King from one of our most interesting choreographers. Mark Baldwin's The Man With a Moustache takes its cue from the music of the 1920s eccentric Lord Berners, Britain's answer to Erik Satie. Seven short movements, bearing whimsical titles such as "White Mice" and "Strauss, Strauss et Strauss", are fashioned by Baldwin into a kind of balletic harlequinade, danced under a Rousseau night sky. Andrew Flint-Shipman's startling designs and costumes add to this delightful sense of a world askew: a backdrop of luscious flowers and fruit crawling with insects; and multi-coloured tutus like dahlias, disconcertingly worn with stick-on moustaches and bowler hats. Baldwin's choreography plays up to these subversive elements, paradoxically, by keeping strictly within the bounds of conventional classical steps. And this also happens to show off the company to its best advantage. His original thinking shows itself in subtler ways, such as having the central couple walk their way through a rousing Viennese waltz, or smirk mysteriously at each other throughout a pas de deux which resembles more a decorous sparring match than the usual love-in.

If there is a criticism of this intriguing piece, it's that the use of madcap props - a giant pair of carved red lips and a huge moustache, solemnly carted on and off by the dancers - is rather underdone. It's as if a very British restraint got the better of the designer's wilder flights of fancy halfway through. But then, that's fitting to Lord Berners - an English aristo who combined a spell in the diplomatic service with a career writing music to his pet parrot. City Ballet is on to a winner with this nutty little number. And what a confidence-builder it was too. When the curtain went up on the final work, a big, muscular piece of neo-classicism by the Hungarian Istvan Herczog, it was hard to recognise these glossily assured dancers as the same we'd seen an hour earlier. Principals Oxana Panchenko and Marius Els seemed hardly mortal and the whole company had glamour. Lord Rothermere would have been well pleased.

Buxton Opera House (01298 72190), 17-19 Sept; Crawley Hawth, (01293 553636), 25 & 26 Sept; Southsea King's Theatre (01705 828282), 9 & 10 Oct; Basingstoke Anvil (01256 844244), 23 & 24 Oct.

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea