Born 60 years ago yesterday, English National Ballet is not just wrinkle-free but positively rejuvenated.
Is it the refreshing rain? The thrill of the occasion? Or Wayne Eagling's directorship? And how do you mark your 60th? With popular classics, such as Michael Corder's much-lauded Cinderella (to the music of Prokofiev) and a new Nutcracker this Christmas by Eagling. So, no risk-taking, but, despite its long tour schedule, ENB is not as richly subsidised as the Royal Ballet.
Instead it is rich in dancers, starting with its unofficial prima ballerina assoluta Daria Klimentova. From her opening solo with her delicate, singing line, to the regal symmetries of her ballroom pas de deux, she was the compelling heart of Cinderella, boosted by wonderful performances around her: young Vadim Muntagirov as the prince, precise in his choreography's difficult shapes; the four couples, doing full justice to their contrasted dances for the Seasons; the ensembles, beautifully rehearsed.
Corder's production differs from others, not least with its danced-through narrative and inclusion of the usually discarded music for the Prince's long travels. The intelligent attempt to create a mythic-cosmic framework, with romantic full moon, star-studded sky and the cycle of the seasons, feels only half-grafted on to the familiar story. But who cares? The finely-crafted choreography and performances are wonderfully nuanced. Set within David Walker's spacious, enchanting designs, princely palace gleaming like a lantern of hope in the distance, this ballet has a sweep that carries you along with Prokofiev's best ballet score.
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