Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London

Home-grown talent shines through at last
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Three cheers at last for the Royal Ballet. Last night's programme contained three works by three of the company's own choreographers, all British and all good. They included the season's only creation, which is also David Bintley's first for Covent Garden in 10 years. Bintley likes making story ballets, but he also does some inventive all-dance pieces and this is one.

The highly attractive music (lovingly played under Barry Wordsworth's direction) is by Glazunov, written in 1900 for one of Petipa's last ballets. Bintley adopts its French title, Les Saisons to distinguish it from the Seasonshe made to Verdi music for his Birmingham company two years back.

He adopts a freer structure this time, following progress from winter through spring and summer to autumn, but with overlaps when one season usurps another's time (haven't we experienced that too often lately?) and he allows his cast to mingle in a mass finale.

The outcome is 40 minutes of varied dances. At first it seems that the women will have the upper hand, as five of them swiftly follow each other in contrasted solos for Winter: a touch of humour at times, notable speed and delicacy. In Spring, too, Alina Cojocaru has most of the going, with her partner Johan Kobborg largely in the background. In Summer an ensemble, all women, for the first time joins the principal couple: Isabel McMeekan, very charming, supported by Jonathan Cope. But Autumn brings on more men, a small but strong team led by Martin Harvey, and Bintley shows them in powerful form, soaring in their repeated jumps.

The ballet would have looked more stylishly dazzling in the days when the Royal Ballet had more women of actual or potential ballerina style, but Bintley has made the most of the soloists. The women benefit from Charles Quiggin's costumes: you would scarcely believe this is his first ballet.

Two other masterworks make up the show. Frederick Ashton was the greatest of all English choreographers. The Stravinsky Scenes de ballet contains arguably Ashton's most beautiful dance invention. Likewise, Song of the Earth is Kenneth MacMillan's best ballet, full of true emotion and powerful patterns inspired by Mahler's score.

Just one snag: there are ludicrously few performances, over within a week, so hurry if you want to see the Royal Ballet at its present best.

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