Dance Review: Living doll

Giselle Labatt's Apollo, London

Reports of the death of conventional ballet have been greatly exaggerated. Although it has become fashionable to take a boring old classic and give it a good seeing to, it is still very hard to beat the real thing played straight. This week the Royal Ballet are giving us Peter Wright's Giselle and the production proves that there is life in the old girl yet. The production's mixture of modesty and assurance tells an old story with relish and trusts fully in its power to please the eye and stir the heart without the need for gimmicks.

Miyako Yoshida left the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1995 to take her chances at Covent Garden. Her own injuries, the superabundance of female principals at the Royal Ballet and the meagre annual performances allowed to the ballet company have resulted in surprisingly few appearances by the 31- year-old dancer. Yoshida first danced Giselle with BRB. The Royal Ballet has waited a long time for her Giselle, but it has been well worth the wait.

Pretty, shy and uncloyingly sweet, her interpretation of the role is rich in details but chasteningly simple in style. Yoshida wisely chooses to emphasise Giselle's uncomplicated gaiety and trusting ways rather than opt for the dance-crazed headcase you sometimes get. Some Giselles start off so flaky and neurotic that no one is the slightest bit surprised when they start chewing the carpet after their boyfriend throws them over.

Yoshida sees to it that the Giselle of Act I is all of a piece with the loyal ghost of Act II. The slyness with which she slips her hand from Albrecht's grasp in their first scene prefigures the evanescent wili of Act II. The mad scene is a triumph. Yoshida manages without any histrionics to evoke the full horror of a loving heart betrayed; by the speed of her runs, by the frantic twitching of her fingers and by the questioning tilt of her heart-shaped face. The effect was devastating.

Yoshida's dancing has an unflashy virtuosity that is particularly well- suited to the role of Giselle, enabling her to power through the marathon of soubresauts and flick jetes in Act II without ny apparent effort. Although she often seems most at home when dancing at speed, there is a ravishing underwater languor to her arms and wrists. Her modestly blocked feet alternate magically between kitten softness and steely attack. The Apollo has a very unforgiving floor and the wilis made more noise than usual but Yoshida seemed hardly to touch the stage.

Her partner William Trevitt is not a burly enough dancer to be able to pull off that trick of seeming to hold the ballerina down rather than lifting her up - but then few men built on that scale can get their feet round the entrechats as nimbly. He made an impressive debut and projected with ease to the outer limits of the circle. His mime as he sneakily pulls off the superfluous petal in the game of "She loves me - she loves me not" earned appreciative giggles from as far away as West Kensington.

'Giselle', Labatt's Apollo, London W6 to 11 October. Yoshida dances again at 2pm, 11 October. Booking: 0171-304 4000.

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