Stravinsky: The Real Deal, Hippodrome, Birmingham

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The Independent Culture

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Stravinsky programmes – from last year's sensational Balanchine evening to a triumphant Firebird – have been something to celebrate.

With this bill, they've got to the tricky ones. Le Baiser de la Fée, which has a long history as a problem ballet, isn't fixed by Michael Corder's new production. But Petrushka, a classic that is notoriously difficult to revive, is in very good shape.

The plot of Le Baiser de la Fée comes from Hans Christian Andersen. As a baby, the hero is kissed by the fairy of a winter storm – a kiss that seals his fate. He grows up, falls in love but, just before his wedding, the fairy returns to reclaim him.

Stravinsky, who based his score on music by Tchaikovsky, drew parallels between the Fairy and Tchaikovsky's own muse. There have been productions by celebrated choreographers – Nijinska, Balanchine, Ashton – none of which have endured.

Baiser is Corder's second icy Andersen work in a year, and this is the stronger ballet. But, like his Snow Queen for English National Ballet, it has an overflow of classical steps, fluent but lacking individuality.

There are a few distinctive touches. The Fairy's attendants circle her, their fast pointework suddenly changing rhythm. That burst of speed gives the footwork a frosty sparkle. For the kiss itself, the Fairy is lifted by her attendants, echoing the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty.

John F Macfarlane's set is a backdrop of stylised trees, which slide past as we move deeper into the forest. It's an atmospheric, disorienting moment.

Elsewhere, Corder provides his cast with plenty of steps, but not much character. We can see that Jenna Roberts' Fairy, Natasha Oughtred's Bride and Alexander Campbell's Young Man dance cleanly, but these neat, academic steps don't tell us much more.

Campbell makes a much stronger impression as the puppet hero of Petrushka. There's a real sawdust look to his movement, mittened hands held loosely. Then there's the sheer detail of Fokine's Russian crowd scenes: street dancers taking off their galoshes, coachmen stamping to keep warm. John Auld's revival is handsomely staged, the dancers alert. They don't yet have the relaxed naturalness that they achieve in their own Nutcracker, but this Petrushka already has a bustling liveliness.

The evening ends with John Cranko's Card Game. The ballet is full of gurning and pratfalls, but this revival is punchily danced.

At The Lowry, Salford 8-9 July (0161-876 2000)

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