Starved of money for years, Scottish Ballet needs a break from a country that prides itself on its culture. One thing is certain: change is looming, in the shape of a new director (the six shortlisted candidates include the Royal Ballet's Ashley Page) and, apparently, a new vision. Whatever that is, central command at Scottish Ballet would do well to hang on to the company's strengths. Its chief strength is a unique legacy of quality chamber dramas by its founding choreographer Peter Darrell. Another strength is the acquisition of ballets by Frederick Ashton, most recently La Fille Mal Gardée and now The Two Pigeons, exquisite pieces that are perfect in scale and manner.
Made in 1961, just a year after La Fille Mal Gardée, The Two Pigeons is quintessential Ashton, filled with human insight, charm and, to boot, a wise moral at the end. But Scottish audiences are not, it seems, queuing round the blocks to get in – when they should be. They need to know what they're missing. They also need carrots dangled in their faces, which is where the invitation to guest artist Sarah Wildor should at least come in useful.
A Royal Ballet principal until a few months ago, she is not an international star such as Rudolf Nureyev who donned a kilt for Scottish Ballet's La Sylphide (those were the days). She is, though, admired for her lyricism, musicality and sensitive interpretation of other Ashton roles. She promised to be ideal as the Young Girl, one of the title's pigeons, who stays home while the other – the Young Man – flies away, drawn by the lure of fresh, exotic romance. But she also has to compete with memories of other sublime ballerinas such as Lynn Seymour, Doreen Wells – and Lesley Collier, who provided some coaching for this staging. Perhaps Wildor should have had longer with Collier, because while she succeeds in the broad contours, she hasn't yet absorbed the finer textures, in particular the melting playfulness and broken-winged pathos that Collier used to portray with such delicacy.
The production, staged by choreologist Dennis Bonner, looks right and the gypsy ensembles convey dash and colour. But Ivan Dinev as the Young Man needs a stronger presence and bigger dancing, the idea for most leaps being to move forward as well as up. Lorna Scott's gypsy girl will look better once she has turned up the volume of shoulder-shimmying flamboyance and built up the brilliance of her pas ciseaux solo.
Ashton's choreography is certainly more demanding than that for the programme's opening piece, Bach Dances, by Robert North, the company's outgoing director. North has always had a gift for pleasant, easy-on-the-eye dancing and in these rather repetitive Paul Taylorish manoeuvres, the company looks attractive, unstressed and unchallenged. The Scottish Ballet orchestra, under Alan Barker, serves Bach well and gives André Messager's tuneful score the vividness it deserves.
His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen (01224 641122) to 13 April, then touring to Glasgow and InvernessReuse content