Kirov Ballet: Romeo And Juliet, Royal Opera House, London

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The Independent Culture

Lavrovsky's version is the most influential of all Romeo ballets. It was made for the Kirov in 1940, and restaged for Moscow's Bolshoi in 1946. When the Bolshoi came West in 1956, Romeo was a sensation. Audiences were swept up by its dramatic intensity, by the Bolshoi dancers' complete identification with their roles.

There isn't a trace of this here. The Kirov look lost in Romeo, where the dancing needs dramatic bite. In the opening scene, beggars drift across the stage, joined by tradesmen, prostitutes, nobles. These aren't the people of anybody's Verona: they're ballet dancers in hopeful make-up and bad wigs.

The fight between the Montagues and Capulets is all set gestures, feeble swords and hammy deaths. Vladimir Ponomarev's Lord Capulet conveys anger with a pop-eyed stare and a stagger. Ilya Kuznetsov's Tybalt, in orange wig and fake tan, mimes hearty Errol Flynn laughter.

Weak performance shows up the thinness of Lavrovsky's choreography. He has few steps, and he readily repeats them. The ballet needs dancers who can round out the characters and story.

The first-cast Juliet was Diana Vishneva, fresh from an acclaimed season as a guest artist in New York. She has long limbs, high extensions, a big jump. In this role, though, there's little contrast in her dancing, and her acting is of the two-expressions variety.

Her Romeo, Andrian Fadeyev, is blond and bland. He has jumps, he has turns, but doesn't project much ardour. Leonid Sarafanov makes a long-legged, under-characterised Mercutio. There's some flourish, but his phrasing is unmusical.

The Kirov use an unfamiliar version of Prokofiev's score. Pavel Bubelnikov conducted an undisciplined performance by the company's own orchestra. A bad night all round.

Kirov season ends tomorrow (020-7304 4000)