Diaghilev Festival Coliseum, London

Some ballets are dead, but they won't lie down

If you know anything about perfume, you'll know that the real thing doesn't last.

Even in its original bottle, kept cool in a darkened room, in time its essence is corrupted.

The same is often true of old ballets. You can understand why the director of the Kremlin Ballet might hanker to revive lost gems from the early years of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Russia having missed out on the whole shebang first time round. But it takes more than a musical score and a rough idea of the original designs to inject life into a 100-year-old phenomenon, as demonstrated by the week-long Diaghilev season first seen in Moscow, now at London's Coliseum. Three programmes each pair one well-known piece, such as The Firebird (pictured right) or Shéhérazade, with a forgotten one – filling the blanks with new steps.

But there is a good reason why The Blue God and Thamar, both originally with choreography by Fokine, dropped into obscurity once the Ballets Russes disbanded in 1929. Their success had depended on their stars: Nijinsky in the first, the exquisite Tamara Karsavina in the second, as a lethal Queen of the Caucasus who slays those she seduces. Without that myth-making charisma, the choreography has more to prove.

And, dear me, Thamar struggled. One shudders to think what expletive Diaghilev might have used for Georgian choreographer Jurijus Smoriginas's efforts – surely something more inventive than this caricature of eroticism. The interminable leg-lifts-to-the-ear are bad enough, but the bum wiggling takes ballet to a rare level of crassness. Despite the irritations of Irma Nioradze's stretched facial expressions and her purple leopard-print miniskirt, she demanded your sympathy, stuck with this duff material.

The enterprise had some value in exposing Balakirev's orientalist score, with its melismatic solo overture played on – I think – bass clarinet pitched fearsomely high, a presage of the opening bassoon in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring which appeared the following year. But surely the original Bakst designs were neither so lurid nor hi-tech, a kingsize bedsheet creating a billowing Georgian mountainscape with fluorescent green edges.

The company looked altogether happier on familiar ground. Shéhér-azade has always been ludicrous, the ballet equivalent of Carry On Up the Harem, but the dancers gave it their all, including a podgy Nikolai Tsiskaridze as the Golden Slave and a slinky Ilze Liepa as Zobeide.

Final programme today (0871 911 0200)

Next Week:

Jenny Gilbert looks for holiday fun with the company Chouf Ouchouf, beach acrobats from Morocco

Dance Box

Direct from Buenos Aires comes Flames of Desire a trawl through the history of Argentine tango from the company Tango Fire. London's Peacock Theatre till Sat, and touring. Meanwhile, Alice is proving a hit for Scottish Ballet with its decidedly non-cute take on Lewis Carroll's classic story. Edinburgh's Festival Theatre Wed to Sat, then touring.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living