Scottish Ballet: Mixed Bill, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

A troupe who've found their feet
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The Independent Culture

Scottish Ballet is in good heart. Ashley Page, who took over as director after a long period of crisis, has pulled the company into shape. The new spring mixed bill starts splendidly and ends vivaciously. There's a dip in the middle, but the dancers are on confident form throughout.

After years of being called "troubled", Scottish Ballet has plenty of good news this spring. The Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund has just agreed to support the company's move to a new home in Glasgow's Tramway arts complex, and, for the first time in almost 20 years, the company has been invited to appear at the Edinburgh International Festival.

In Edinburgh, the company will dance an all-Balanchine programme - the invitation is a compliment to their performance of The Four Temperaments. Page brought in this 1946 masterpiece for Balanchine's centenary last year.

It's a bold challenge for a newly reorganised company, and Scottish Ballet goes for it. The company's women, especially, launch themselves into Balanchine's thrust hips, jazzy torsos and chorus-girl poses. There are a few rough edges: feet could be stronger, lines more classical. Yet there's a real excitement about the company, and the ballet's wonderful steps are cleanly presented. It makes an exhilarating performance.

There are good individual performances, too. Claire Robertson leads the "Choleric" variation with furious sweep. Paul Liburd makes a dry "Phlegmatic", with a fine sense of contrast. Sophie Martin, meanwhile, gives the first theme a grand, flowing shape.

Page is a choreographer as well as a director, and it was inevitable that his company would dance his own ballets. But three of them in one evening? These should be contrasting pieces. There's a slinky duet, a wriggling new quartet and a company work with more classical steps. But really, they're all the same ballet. The lighting is always murky, the costumes dark and over-detailed.

The Pump Room, this season's premiere, has the physical human heart as a vague theme. The soundtrack, by Aphex Twin and Nine Inch Nails, thumps rather than pulses. Four dancers fling themselves on to the stage, swap partners, clamber through complicated lifts. The dancing is athletic, squirming away from classical technique into high kicks and twisting fidgets. Page provides confrontations but no obvious relationships. This choreography doesn't develop.

It's the same with 32 Cryptograms. This company work is danced to a score by Robert Moran, in a lively performance by Richard Honner and the Scottish Ballet Orchestra. The dancers cross the stage in blocks - arrangements of corps de ballet and soloists - but it lacks logic. Still, Page's company dances his work with commitment and attack. Lastly, Soon Ja Lee and Oliver Rydout slither through Walking in the Heat. It's the simplest of these three numbers, and the most successful.

Ashton's 1931 Façade is also new to this company. It's an ideal closing ballet, a gorgeous suite of comic dances to music by William Walton. A happy ripple went round Glasgow's Theatre Royal at the opening "Scotch Rhapsody". Ashton weaves the neatest Highland footwork, his dancers ricocheting off each other in jumps. Three Swiss yodellers partner a milkmaid, not just lifting her but crossing and uncrossing her feet for her entrechats.

Scottish Ballet is still adjusting to Ashton's style, and the group dances need more musical bounce. Individual numbers, however, are already glowing. Erik Cavallari and Cristo Vivancos are sublimely deadpan in the "Popular Song", going through their soft-shoe shuffle with blasé unconcern. In the "Tango", Rydout's Dago seethes with fury as he leads Tatiana Loginova's Debutante through their exhibition number.

Tour continues to Edinburgh and Inverness (