Homage to Balanchine, Royal Opera House, London

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The Independent Culture

The Mariinsky Ballet celebrates George Balanchine, in the only mixed bill of this London season. Sometimes they're on top of this choreography, sometimes not.

In Serenade, the corps de ballet shift into position in blocks, rather than letting patterns emerge from the flow of the dance. But when they all take an arabesque pose, they're thrilling: torsos proudly held, limbs boldly stretched.

Serenade, Rubies and Symphony in C were among the company's early acquisitions. The Mariinsky have been dancing them for more than a decade. So why is their grasp on this choreography so variable? Serenade was solid enough, but Rubies and Symphony in C had some serious wobbles.

Rubies is Balanchine at his jazziest. It has New York attitude and a flashing Stravinsky score, with showgirl poses, thrust hips and gleeful syncopation. This performance looked generally under-rehearsed, with some bright moments to remind you that these dancers could get it right. In the soloist role, Ekaterina Kondaurova jumped onto her pointes, arriving in position with a bang. The corps rushed in from the wings, snapping triumphantly into their leggy formations.

Elsewhere, the same corps struggled with intricate steps, sometimes not far from the staggers. Rising star Vladimir Shklyarov has a strong technique, but this bravura role kept running away with him. His pas de deux with Irina Golub went in and out of focus. Pavel Bubelnikov conducted a sprightly performance, with glittering solo piano from Ludmila Sveshnikova.

Symphony in C is a superb showcase for a classical company: four ballerinas, each supported by her own court of partner, solists and corps. Tereshkina, who had already danced a fine "heroine" in Serenade, led the first movement. There's a handsome simplicity to her line, without fuss or exaggeration.

Ulyana Lopatkina gave a remote account of the slow second movement. She danced as if holding her breath, unwilling to let go. Arm positions are lightly sketched, without much weight.

Elena Evseeva and Evgenia Obraztsova were lively in the third and fourth movements. Again, the corps looked under-rehearsed. The end of Symphony in C is a surefire excitement-builder, with wave after wave of exuberant dancing. It didn't fail here, but it could have had so much more momentum.