Dance review: Christmas treat with a touch of the bittersweet

The Nutcracker English National Ballet at the London Coliseum

If you and your friends were to pull up outside a London theatre, line the pavement with crash barriers and talk to each other anxiously on mobile telephones, a large rubbernecking crowd would soon form. And so it proved at the London Coliseum on Monday.

"Who's coming?" "Juke of York." "Duchess of York?" "No. Juke." You should have seen their little faces fall. Barring a major break with tradition, Prince Andrew would not be wearing a frock, which is really what they like to see. Fortunately the dress circle was awash with frills for ENB's London premiere of its new Nutcracker. The evening served as a celebration of what (Smith permitting) will be ENB's regular winter season at the Coliseum and a memorial to their adored patroness, the Princess of Wales. Her everyday involvement with the company showed her interest in dance in general and these dancers in particular. This was illustrated in a short and touching film in which the company paid tribute to a woman who helped them at every level: the Princess would pop round with cakes to see the ballet company on her doorstep but it was also she who clinched the valuable sponsorship deal with Harrods.

Derek Deane's swanky new Nutcracker, first seen in Southampton last month, is slyly contrived to appeal to all ages. The ravishing Tamara Rojo brings mature reflection to the role of Clara, while contriving to look all of 12 and a half. Her Nutcracker was the handsome Roberto Bolle, from La Scala.

Designer Sue Blane's monochrome treatment of Act 1 highlights the distance between the adolescent Clara and her parents' arid chic. Her Kingdom of Sweets has all the sugary excess of a young girl's bedroom, and ranges from witty - liquorice allsort tutus - to just plain bonkers - huge bags of sweeties that glide dizzily about the floor like candy-striped Daleks.

To 10 Jan. Booking: 0171 632 8300

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