Bussell and Guillem slug it out

DANCE

I've heard nothing to suggest that fire regulations have tightened up at Covent Garden, but the feeble device that serves for a sacred Hindu flame throughout the first act of La Bayadere suggests a new degree of pyrophobia. Once you've made the decision to go ahead and stage that most grandly ludicrous of all the surviving 19th-century ballets - complete with waltzing Indian serving girls, naked fakirs, murder by snakebite and a full-scale collapsing Hindu temple - you've just got to throw caution to the wind. Miming sacred vows over a fire of orange crepe-paper ribbons gives quite the wrong message: Bayadere isn't a ballet you play safe with.

Sensible decisions dampen a good deal of the Royal Ballet's revival of Natalia Makarova's otherwise fascinating production. Until the 1980s, Bayadere was unknown in the West other than as a scenic excerpt - the legendary Kingdom of the Shades, with its bewitching procession of white- tutu'd girls arabesquing under a silver moon. The Russian Imperial ballet, we are told, fielded 48 ghostly girls, the Royal manages only 24, but the moment when the seemingly endless crocodile of ballerinas suddenly melts into five straight white lines is still a breathtaking feat of stage geometry.

The full three-act ballet puts this pale vision into colourful context: it's the result of an opium binge by the warrior hero, Solor, spliced between a first and a last act brimful of the sort of hyperactive hi-jinx more often found in opera. The first meeting between the rival female leads, both in love with Solor, is curiously devoid of dancing. All that passion must be poured into mime, the imperious Princess Gamzatti offering extravagant bribes and violent threats to pursuade the humble temple dancer to give up her warrior lover, the unrelenting girl eventually wielding a dagger to fend her off.

The whole tenor of the evening hangs on the casting of these two, as the queues for returns that snaked along Floral Street were aware. The chance of seeing Sylvie Guillem and Darcey Bussell not only on the same stage but also - steady on guys - in combat together was the sort of double whammy you'd sleep on the pavement not to miss. But in the event the pairing didn't quite fizz. Guillem turned in a performance of polished-alabaster cool, beautifully nuanced with the modesty appropriate to a bayadere. But Bussell, for all her physical splendour, seems to have trouble summoning spite, let alone murderous venom.

It's an uneven ballet at best, with its longer-than-usual stretches of non-dance, Minkus's unmemorable score, and the mad incongruity of polkas at a rajah's party. Teddy Kumakawa's two-minute solo - as an animated Bronze Idol in wet-look gold body paint - contained more balletic whizz- bangs than the entire last act. Naturally, the costume department have had a field day, producing acres of tulle embroidered with peacocks' eyes, fancy turbans, and so on. But for all the work's period extravagance, its two or three major dance moments stand up with the greatest, and this revival gives these full throttle.

The Rambert Dance Company strode into the capital this week, to luxuriate in the wide-open space of the Peacock's stage after a year on the road. Still riding high after its 70th birthday, it packed the West End venue with a triple bill that offered something old as well as something new. Swansong was created by Rambert's current artistic director Christopher Bruce back in the 1980s, long before he was mooted as saviour of the ailing company. The enduring quality of Swansong - a three-hander in which a prisoner of conscience endures interrogation - reminds us why Bruce was and still is the right man for the job, tapping the company's assets in a populist as well as provoking vein.

Torture isn't a pretty subject, and the piece does not flinch from its horrors. Yet by assured use of irony Bruce manages to get nearer the ugly truth - and our inadequate responses to it - than many more harrowing plays or films. The idea of interrogation by vaudeville tap-dance routine may sound wildly off-beam, but if Amnesty International had set up a stall at the Peacock, they would have found it well worth their while.

Bruce's new piece, Stream, is more abstract, but provides enough fleeting clues to keep even the dimmest spectator engaged. This is the scene they cut from the film 2001: lunar sylphs swimming on the planet's crust, blotchy- limbed fauns synchronised in a rutting stomp; gravity-less creatures in an inter-galactic jive; a suggestion of Adam and Eve, and the beginnings of another big story. Taken with Philip Chambon's tumultuous electronic score, and full-blooded performances all round, please welcome

Speculation was rife as to what avant- garde choreographers William Forsythe and Dana Caspersen would come up with for the latest Beck's/Artangel installation, Tight Roaring Circle, based at the London Roundhouse. The stern promise of "an interaction between fields of light and movement" did nothing to prepare anyone for what greets you on entering the vast Victorian engine- shed: a 30ft-high, white leatherette bouncy castle. Any interaction is between you and it. Halfway up a padded turret a text reads: "Each passing year never failing to exact its toll keeps altering what was sublime into the stuff of comedy." Too right. Leave your shoes at the door and bounce yourself silly.

'La Bayadere': ROH, WC2 (0171 340 6000) Tues, Thurs & Fri, then 10 April. 'Tight Roaring Circle': Roundhouse, NW1 (0171 336 6803) to 20 April.

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    BI Manager - £50,000

    £49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

    £48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

    VB.Net Developer

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

    SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements