Louise Levene on dance

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The Independent Culture
Repeat after me. Not all great dancers are Russian. Anyone still in doubt should take a holiday from their regular Eastern European diet and sample the Royal Ballet's summer season at Covent Garden. They open with a performance of Giselle starring Viviana Durante and Irek Mukhamedov (below). Mukhamedov is one of the few men to make any sense of Albrecht, the selfish count who drives a little peasant girl to suicide, then feels very sorry afterwards. Many male dancers try to make Albrecht a nice guy with a bad memory - an interpretation that doesn't really fit the facts. Like Nureyev before him, Irek portrays him as a randy and thoughtless aristocrat with an eye for a pretty face who realises too late that other people (even poor people) have feelings. It's a great reading but if you've already seen it, you'd do better to catch Darcey Bussell's Wednesday night debut as Giselle. One thinks of Giselle as a little slip of a thing, but then we used to think that Manons and Juliets had to be played by midgets and Miss Bussell triumphantly proved otherwise. Other debutantes this week include the new Opera House pet, Sarah Wildor, who makes her (delayed) debut in Daphnis and Chloe on Thursday.

Another Royal Ballet artist takes on the Russians at their own game on the stage of the Coliseum itself; Sylvie Guillem is guesting with the Kirov in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai from Thursday to Saturday. The 1934 ballet is based on Pushkin's poem and involves a beautiful Polish princess, a Tartar chieftain and his jealous mistress. Sylvie "shares" the limelight with Kirov starlet Yulia Makhalina. The pair are both tall and thin with long, flexible limbs and high extensions and their hyper-athletic styles are often compared, but the smart money says that Mademoiselle will act the Russian off the stage...

See listings, p26, for details