Scottish Ballet, Playhouse, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

With Scottish Ballet's new Petrushka, choreographer Ian Spink moves a traditional story to the Russia of the 1990s. It makes an atmospheric, spooky production, but Spink doesn't have enough dance ideas to fill Stravinsky's score.

The first Petrushka was created for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. In that company's centenary year, Spink revisits the tale of jealousy between puppets on show at a Shrovetide fair. This time, the performers are human, though they're still bossed around by the magician who presents them to the crowd.

Spink's dramatic timing is good. Erik Cavallari's magician appears out of nowhere, unnerving the holiday crowds. His "puppets" – now a clown, a showgirl and a wrestler – wait in an old meat truck, its doors swinging creepily open. The hysterical clown is shoved aside when tries to get between the wrestler and the showgirl.

There isn't enough dancing. Daniel Davidson, Victoria Willard and Tama Barry make more impact in their mime scenes than in the repetitive dance numbers. Crowd scenes are under-characterised, spending too much time throwing the same boxes of blackmarket goods about. Some of Stravinsky's motifs get the same dance every time, while others get no dancing at all. His interpretation of Petrushka is clever, but full of gaps. Nicholas Kok conducts a stirring performance from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, though there were rough edges from the brass.

It's part of an ambitious triple bill. Ashton's geometrically beautiful Scènes de Ballet has been lovingly staged for this company. The corps show serious attention to style: the flicked wrists, the bobbing heads, the way they dip and bounce into poses. Adam Blyde and Claire Robertson are less comfortable in the demanding leading roles, needing authority. Kok conducts a slack performance of Stravinsky's score.

Workwithinwork is one of William Forsythe's most varied and inventive pure dance works. It starts with Berio's Duetti for two violins, played on tape. Dancers sketch out steps, then plunge into movement. A quarrelsome duet slides back into something gentler. Dancers take classical poses, swoon or stretch into new positions, or bounce into high-stepping stomping moves. Scottish Ballet's dancers respond with an alert, expansive performance.

Workwithinwork is in Scottish Ballet's autumn tour (www.scottishballet.co.uk)

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