Royal Ballet Triple Bill, Royal Opera House, London
Anna Karenina, Coliseum, London

With rock nobility on stage and no one in the pit, a ticket for the Royal Ballet feels more like a pass to Ministry of Sound

They came in all their finery: glam-rockers in nose-rings and dog-chains, the Kensington set in full-fig Chanel. The last time the Royal Ballet attracted such a mixed crowd was in 2006, when ballet last met pop and fashion head-on. Once again the kingpin is choreographer Wayne McGregor, but now he has even more clout, summoning Gareth Pugh as designer, Mark Ronson as guitarist-composer, singer Alison Mosshart of The Kills, rappers Black Cobain and Wale, and – goodness, could that really be? – Boy George. Rufus Wainwright is credited with orchestration, though the ROH Orchestra mysteriously stayed at home. With so much else going on, no one seemed to notice.

Within this fug of creative egos, 18 dancers of preternatural elasticity muscled a way through. The title, Carbon Life, nods to personal responsibility, but McGregor treats his cast as an assemblage of jutting limbs. "Carbon Copy" might be nearer the mark, as black-knicker-clad clones march, slide, dislocate and generally spatchcock themselves in ways well rehearsed in earlier McGregor ballets. As always, certain dancers are pushed into prominence: big Ed Watson, tiny Sarah Lamb, recklessly hyperflexed Melissa Hamilton. Yet even they can't stop your gaze migrating to the musical comings and goings upstage. Potentially great moments in frozen silhouette are ruined by musicians standing in the way.

Pugh's design distracts further with a wall of vertical rods that morph into a grid that busily rises and falls. His costumes are a cabaret in themselves, from nude suits and man-tutus to Ku Klux Klan hoods, over-the-knee spats and niqab-like bodices that hide the women's chins. Viewed as a rock gig with high-end production values, Carbon Life is deservedly a hot ticket. As a chapter in the ongoing story of the Royal Ballet and its house choreographer, it's not encouraging.

Less worrying are the flaws that beset Sweet Violets, the other new work on the bill. This is young Liam Scarlett's first bite at narrative, and he's simply bitten off too much.

Braiding rumour with fact concerning Jack the Ripper and Walter Sickert, a painter with a distinctly sordid turn of mind, his plot has too many characters, too many scenes, and asks too much of an audience's comprehension. A prostitute, bundled off by heavies in an early scene, is unrecognisable half an hour later when she reappears bald and mad. Another, murdered in the first five minutes, returns as a ghost. The hollow-eyed ghoul who partners girls on the local music-hall stage turns out to be a projection of Sickert's sick imagination. Yet the old-school mimed naturalism fails to flag up these supernatural possibilities. Scarlett could have been bolder, and briefer, too. His handling of his dance ideas, on the other hand, is superbly assured, as, one must assume, is his handling of his top-rung cast who are literally prepared to scamper up the wallpaper for him (Alina Cojocaru, as Sickert's mistress) or undress (Tamara Rojo – though I really don't think ticket-holders needed the indecency warning).

John MacFarlane's dingy sets cleverly suggest the Camden Town paintings. The music, excessive and ominous by turns, is Rachmaninov's, rendered by piano trio to economical effect.

It's said that dance is an international language. Wordless it may be, but taste does not always cross national boundaries, and the narrative ballets of Boris Eifman are a case in point. A veteran of 30 years dance-making in St Petersburg, he tackles epic stories for vast stages in a style a Russian might approvingly call bolshoi – big – and we might call OTT.

Anna Karenina, opening a brief season of Eifman's work at the Coliseum, might skimp on half the plot (no Levin, no Kitty), but goes to the max on passionate angst, giving wayward Anna wings of fire in antics that would send a seasoned circus gymnast scurrying to check their personal injury cover. Maria Abashova, in the cast I saw, is a gorgeous Amazonian with a technique that should have had the house on its feet. But overstatement of the case (whether love, misery, or husband-loathing) curiously dis-empowered her. The most telling image in Eifman's ballet was the black-clad chorus embodying steam trains on a busy stretch of track.

 

Royal Ballet (020-7304 4000) to 23 Apr

Dance choice

In the 65th anniversary year of Tennes-see Williams's play, Scottish Ballet presents a fresh take on A Streetcar Named Desire, a collaboration between theatre and film director Nancy Meckler and choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, with a new, jazz-inflected score by Peter Salem. At Glasgow's Theatre Royal (Wed to Sat), then touring.

Suggested Topics
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

VIDEO
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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
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
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
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
    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
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers