Stars and stardust: The Royal Ballet’s Rhapsody is a virtuoso display that also marks the return of the company’s Russian star, Natalia Osipova, after injury. It takes a while to warm up, but ends in a dazzle of dancing.
Created in 1980, Frederick Ashton’s ballet showcased another Russian wonder, Mikhail Baryshnikov; the contrast between his Soviet-trained bravura and English style are baked into the ballet. So this was a role-reversal, with Osipova taking on the ballerina’s melting backbends and speedy footwork while Steven McRae powers through the mercurial lead role.
She’s not quite at home here, happier in the flying leaps than in the witty musical phrasing. Both she and McRae have technique to burn, but the first half needs more joy. As they start trading steps – his impossibly fast turns for her space-devouring whirl – the sparks really begin to fly.
There’s delightful dancing from the soloists around them, seizing their opportunities. This performance also saw a return to the original designs, though with rather less 1980s glitter. The pavilion set frames the dancing, underlining the ballet’s party-piece atmosphere. Rhapsody was paired with Ashton’s The Two Pigeons, where Alexander Campbell and Yuhui Choe find real emotional depth as the flighty, fluffy loversReuse content