Wuthering Heights, Linbury Studio, London
Ondine, Royal Opera House, London

A classic novel is reduced to meteorology and put to music while a classic ballet loses a rising star

If you were to condense the plot of Wuthering Heights and put it in a teabag, the result would make a pretty thin brew. This may be why Emily Brontë's wild and blustery love story has proved such a draw for the stage. What people tend to remember from the book isn't who did what to whom, but what it felt like. Atmosphere is all – howling gales, moorland crags, hard box-beds, the glowering dark – which partly explains why, just as a Bollywood musical version closes in the West End, a contemporary dance treatment has blown in from Switzerland. Directors can't leave it alone.

And sure enough, the best thing about Cathy Marston's 70-minute Wuthering Heights for Bern Ballet is the feeling it captures with minimal means. A few irregular blocks do for the upland scenery, providing slopes for the lovers to gambol on and clifftops to wuther them. Designer Jann Messerli also does drop-down bamboo blinds which clatter oppressively like anger darkening a mind. David Maric's score, for electronics and live double bass, is a meterological marvel with its high, sighing melodies and rumbling climaxes that threaten to burst into heavy rock but never do.

At the start, too, Marston's choreography is thrillingly outdoorsy, suggesting endless space as Jenny Tattersall's Cathy flips and scampers, repeatedly flinging herself, spread-eagled, into Gary Marshall's Heathcliff to hook a leg around his shoulder and wind around his neck. It's fast, free, virtuosic stuff, joyfully executed.

The trouble comes when other characters intrude. There is Hindley (Cathy's nasty brother), Edgar (her rich husband-to-be), and Isabella (Edgar's prim sister), yet little of consequence happens. No wonder Marston felt obliged to amplify the leading pair with four other Cathy and Heathcliff couples, who echo their steps at moments of heightened emotion. And that's most of the time. All praise to Tattersall for her intensity, but, frankly, after Cathy's fourth or fifth tortured duet with the moody hunk she apparently doesn't want but can't keep her hands off, I was itching to give the girl a hard slap. For all its ingenuity, this Wuthering Heights serves only to highlight the frustrating aspects of the original.

Ondine, the 1958 ballet by Frederick Ashton, comes with no such narrative snags. It straightforwardly tells the story of a water sprite who falls in love with a mortal and quits her watery world for his, with disastrous results: think Hans Andersen's Little Mermaid for grown ups.

It's always been a difficult sell at the box office, partly because when people see that Hans Werner Henze did the music they fear difficulty (how wrong they are!), and partly, I suspect, because they think it's going to be fey. Yet this three-acter, back for a short run, is not only the most satisfying story ballet of the mid-20th century, with the most perfect balance of spectacle and intimacy, action and reflection, but it's also the most mysterious and alluring. It may have taken 50 years, but the Royal Ballet at last seems to realise what a sexy little treasure it has in its vault.

Wednesday's cast was of particular interest with Alexandra Ansanelli in the title role. This striking 28-year-old hasn't been long with the company (she was formerly a principal with New York City Ballet), but last month, out of the blue, she announced her retirement. She's simply stopping, and hasn't said why.

Sure, she hasn't had the easiest ride. Trained on Balanchine, she had to learn from scratch the softer, cooler English style. She also had to learn to inhabit character, and in some of her roles the effort showed. Yet with her lovely long limbs, delicate oval face, and her whip-crack speed and lightness, she promised a delicious Ondine. And so it proved. Gone were the spiky angles of the old Ansanelli. In their place were flowing arms and soft hands, and feet in which every tiny watery allusion of Ashton's choreography registered, from the little quivering foot that signalled a newly beating heart to her wriggles of pleasure in every novelty of her new life on dry land.

Who could know that this is a ballerina who has overcome real physical obstacles (spinal curvature, no less) to reach this pitch in classical dance? Her going is a mystery, and so it will remain. Perhaps meeting that challenge was enough.



'Ondine': Ansanelli's final performances are on Mon and Sat (020-7304 4000)

Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event

music
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star