Don Quixote, Royal Opera House, London

5.00

Bolshoi pair reach new heights

The Bolshoi Ballet's London season went out on a delirious high. Don Quixote is a romp of a ballet, all flashing eyes, oompah tunes and virtuoso steps. Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova rampage through it, with outrageous charm and astounding technique. By the time we got to the curtain calls, the audience was standing and screaming for them.

Vasiliev and Osipova have been the revelations of this visit. When they first danced Don Quixote in London three years ago, they were obviously stars. Since then, they've grown as artists. Vasiliev now has heroic intensity to match his soaring jump. Osipova's range stretches from a flirtatious Swanilda to her terrifying Giselle, a ghost with the scent of death around her. Yet both can return to the fun of Don Q, as irresistible as ever.



The Bolshoi is the best company in the world for Don Q. The ballet's tricks could be cheap, but not when they're danced this well, and with such good humour. Gypsies and toreadors swish their skirts and their capes with happy abandon. Spanish dancers arch back until their heads meet their heels.



Alexei Loparevich is a lean, wistful Quixote. Alexander Petukhov bustles greedily as Sancho Panza; conductor Pavel Klinichev races through Minkus's thumping score.



And then there's Vasiliev and Osipova. A gasping squeal went round the theatre at his first big leap. The jump is high, his legs and feet taut – but it's his nonchalance that makes it amazing. There's a lot more where that came from. As he lifts Osipova overhead, the music pauses to milk the moment. Still holding her, Vasiliev stretches out his spare hand, then casually raises his leg for a balance. His timing is hilariously good.



Osipova goes from flying leaps to wittily nimble footwork. As she sweeps across the stage, her snapping feet and hands seem to snatch steps out of the air. In the vision scene, she changes from village girl to elegant ballerina, serenely strong. She's naughty again in the grand pas, holding one wicked balance with a look that's almost demure.



She and Vasiliev egg each other on. Their characters' teasing flirtation comes out in stunning technical feats. Whipping turns and bounding jumps become exuberant expressions of personality. No wonder we stood and shouted.

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