Shostakovich On Stage, Coliseum, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

The dancers of the Mariinsky Ballet (formerly the Kirov) prance with tireless, mirthless zaniness, wrists flapping, elbows joggling. The music, a patchwork of Shostakovich fragments, grinds on. The Bedbug, Leonid Jakobson's 1962 ballet, is stupefyingly bad.

Although the composer wrote ballet music, few Russian stagings have established themselves. This triple bill of early 1960s ballets poses plenty of questions. How can such manic choreography be so listless? How can such simplistic works be so hard to follow?

Two are story ballets, though neither seems capable of telling its story. In The Lady and the Hooligan, Igor Zelensky's hero is called to higher things by his love for a demure girl. He tries to protect her (and the corps) from thugs, but expires after a death agony of big jumps and turns. The music is by-the-yard.

The lead characters are stereotypes, yet it's hard to unpick their relationship. The choreography, by Konstantin Boyarsky, uses a trotting walking step, some gyrating for nightclub scenes and some odd mime. When the Young Lady refuses him, Zelensky's Hooligan rips his shirt open with emotion. What is he saying? "Don't decide until you've seen my pectorals?" Yet Zelensky is the best thing here, bounding and spinning efficiently. As the Young Lady, Svetlana Ivanova does little with her role, and her dancing is mannered.

In The Bedbug, Andrey Ivanov, in false nose, seduces one girl and marries another. Hideous costumes mark the dancers out as characters without helping to identify them. As the Author, Nikolay Naumov wanders through the action, manipulating the onstage plot. (It took me a while to work that out.) Perhaps all this seemed new in 1962.

Igor Belsky's Leningrad Symphony has the highest reputation of these works. Shostakovich's Symphony No 7, written during the Second World War, is associated with the siege of Leningrad. Belsky's emotive ballet shows white-clad Russians resisting Nazi invasion, suffering and dying.

The dancing is weightless, while Belsky's repetitions weaken the music. The star ballerina Uliana Lopatkina is emphatic but unspontaneous. Valery Gergiev, director and chief conductor of the Mariinsky, marshals a crashing orchestral performance.

Ends tonight (0870 145 0200). Shostakovich on Stage continues to Saturday

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