Richmond Ballet, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London


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The Independent Culture

Richmond Ballet, the state ballet of Virginia, USA, made its international debut with easy grace. This is a very likeable company, with dancers who share a fluent classical style and warm stage presence. Individual dancers stand out, distinctive personalities with strong technique.

Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie is a bright showcase, danced to bouncy music by Glinka. Women in pink skim into formal patterns, with one man partnering the central woman. It’s the kind of work that’s harder than it looks, easily spoiled by tension or nerves. The Richmond dancers float through it. Arms and torsos flow and curve without a hitch; footwork sparkles neatly. Valerie Tellmann and Thomas Garrett are confident as the leading couple.

John Butler’s After Eden is an Adam and Eve duet, with recriminations and reconciliation after trouble with the serpent. Created in 1965, it draws on modern dance vocabulary, the dancers winding around each other in muscular balances. Fernando Sabino is a charismatic Adam, with clean lines and vivid stage presence. He unfolds in smooth, steady moves, rippling into shifting positions. Maggie Small is a delicate, precise Eve, yearning when he rejects her, but ready to face the future.

The programme ends with two recent works created for this company. Ma Cong’s Ershter Vals is a folksy ballet to traditional Jewish music by the band Klezroym. Couples skip and kick through brisk duets, circling each other in intimate little shuffles or bounding into big swinging steps. Cong’s choreography shows them as a community, moving from group to soloist dances.

Val Caniparoli’s Swipe is danced to music by Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of the composer Sergei. His score mixes classical string quartet writing and electronic remixes. Caniparoli’s choreography can be hyperactive, with bobbing heads and lots of arm circles, but gives the dancers a chance to show off their speed and attack.

The men bound into their jumps, high and confident. Caniparoli gives them solo moments and a show-off male quartet, with speedy unison footwork and a vaudeville swagger. Small and Phillip Skaggs dive into a post-Forsythe duet, with sleek lines and sharp timing. The women, dressed in skinny jeans and vest tops, swoop in and out. It’s a high-energy end to an attractive programme.

Richmond Ballet perform at The Royal Ballet School on 19 June.