Giselle, Royal Opera House, London

Acosta is superb, but there's a new star snapping at his heels

West End shows with legs are famously of the song-and-dance variety.

The repertory system in ballet, whereby productions run for just a handful of performances at a stretch, tends to obscure their longevity. So it may surprise some that Giselle, in the handsome production by Sir Peter Wright, has clocked up almost 550 performances by the Royal Ballet over 25 years. More impressive still is that it's looking so fresh and potent – the best possible riposte to the festering dysfunctions presented in the week's cinema release Black Swan.

The appeal of Giselle lies in the strength of its contrasts – sunny peasant larks in the first half, culminating in the fatal discovery by a simple country girl that the love of her life is a cheat, followed by a second half of spectral, moonlit beauty, as she enters the ranks of the vengeful spirit maidens who force men to dance to their deaths.

Six casts appear in this revival, and the first led by Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta set the bar high. Giselle, more than any other old ballet, allows individuals to make their mark on the principal roles, and Rojo and Acosta, both separately and together, have given memorable readings in the past. But on Tuesday their performances seemed more finely nuanced than ever, with the result that everyone on stage, from Genesia Rosato as Giselle's doom-mongering mother, to the 24th wili in line, upped their game.

While jumps have never been a particular strength of Rojo, the detail of her dancing more than compensates, along with a quality, useful in a story about a shy girl who loves to dance, of seeming to invent the steps as she goes along. In the spirit world of Act II she brilliantly effaces all trace of human warmth to concentrate everything in Romantic purity of line, right down to the delicate little bounces of her wrists as Acosta masterfully skims her across the stage like a pebble on a lake in dreamy slo-mo.

Acosta, for his part, is a true nobleman in the plushness and clarity of his steps, and a past-master in the signalling of character through elegantly pared-down gesture. But it was only his dramatic timing that gave him the edge on the newcomer snapping at his heels in the second cast.

At just 21, Sergei Polunin, Ukraine-born but Royal Ballet-trained, was born to dance Albrecht. With his racehorse leanness, his column of neck and V-shaped torso, he is believably the fittest man Giselle has ever seen, if not the audience, too. He is, what's more, already a fearsome technician, whose beaten steps have the sharpness of glass, and the height of whose jump is frankly astonishing. I rather felt for his perfectly sweet Giselle, Roberta Marquez, who, for all Polunin's gallantry, found herself somewhat upstaged.

To 18 Feb in rep (020-7304 4000). Live relay to selected cinemas this Wed

Next Week:

Jenny Gilbert takes in the opening events of the Mime Festival

Dance Choice

While Matthew Bourne's stirring, London-in-the-Blitz Cinderella enters its final week at Sadler's Wells, David Bintley's more traditional new production, with Prokofiev's luscious score played live, tours north to The Lowry in Salford (Wed to Sat) and south to Plymouth's Theatre Royal (25 to 29 Jan). The Royal Ballet, meanwhile, digs out its Swan Lake, opening with two performances at the Royal Opera House next Saturday.

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit