English National Ballet celebrates its 60th birthday this year, with a summer season of Cinderella. And doesn't the company look good! Michael Corder's choreography is full of classical steps, showing off strong footwork, clean lines and a sense of shared identity. At 60, English National Ballet looks happy and confident.
The company has always been popular: from the annual Nutcracker to its arena-sized Swan Lake, it has aimed to bring ballet to the widest audience. It has had an international cast, with big-name guest stars – and rising stars in its own ranks. Vadim Muntagirov, who danced the Prince at this performance, is the latest discovery.
Six decades have brought inevitable ups and downs, but the present company is on a high. They dance their arena Swan Lake with gusto and commitment, but can also dance a handsomely classical version for more conventional theatres. They're sleeker, with a stronger sense of style and ensemble.
Corder's Cinderella aims for that kind of classicism, a traditional fairy-tale ballet with pretty costumes. Despite the strong performances, it falls short on excitement. Corder's magic scenes – the transformations, the fairy godmother, the stroke of midnight – are tidy rather than magical.
Corder does better with Cinderella's real-life family. Where Ashton's version for the Royal Ballet has the Ugly Sisters played by men, Corder's are pretty but spiteful young women. Adela Ramirez and Sarah McIlroy have huge fun with their stabbing pointe work and poking hands. Ramirez is bossy and attention-seeking, her quick jumps becoming a tantrum. In the ballroom scene, McIlroy is set on making her impression as a Romantic ballerina, with hilariously misplaced winsomeness. Jane Haworth is their frosty mother.