Dance Review: There were never such devoted sisters

The limitations of a small stage prove no obstacle to the Royal Ballet's delightful production, .
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Lace me up before you go-go. Belinda Hatley in rehearsal as Cinderella helps out her pulchritudinally disadvantaged siblings (Philip Mosley and Alistair Marriott)

Cinderella

Royal Festival Hall, London SE1

It's the same pumpkin but it turns into a much smaller coach these days thanks to the restricted wing space at the Royal Festival Hall. Despite this, the Royal Ballet has done a very good job of adapting David Walker's designs for Ashton's Cinderella to this notoriously unhelpful stage. The proscenium is a large plywood passepartout painted faux marble to match the ballroom scene. This has the effect of widening and deepening the space and gives it the look of a Victorian toy theatre. The backdrops have been neatly replicated on trackable gauze. The family kitchen is a tad wobbly, but the four seasons' transformations were very prettily managed. By and large, Cinderella's designs survived the move far better than Beatrix Potter had done.

Splendid carriage, princely manners and sumptuous epaulement - but that was the man in the pit. Viktor Fedotov, chief conductor of the Kirov Ballet, brings out all the romantic sweetness and modern menace of Prokofiev's score and conducted with a thrilling urgency that the orchestra worked hard to match. During the waltz of the stars he was dancing as hard as the chorus, throwing his arms wide and smiling broadly as if carried away by the vertiginous sweep of the music. He seemed unaccountably diverted by the pantomime-dame antics of David Drew and Oliver Symons's Ugly Sisters. The old jokes were warmed over yet again, although the pair managed some nifty ad-libbing when Symons's frock got fatally hooked in his drawers - a situation remedied by the deft fingers and quick thinking of Sylvie Guillem.

Guillem's Cinderella, like her Nikiya, her Kitri and her Manon, combines fresh verismo with high artifice. In the first act she shows genuine resentment at her father's ability to make time for the cuckoo stepsisters, but has only to hear a few saucy scrapes of the violin for her long leg to fly up as if pulled skyward by an invisible counterweight. In this ballet, many of Ashton's most magical sequences could comfortably fit on a hearth rug, but when Guillem dances she can take control of time and space. As you watch her pull off delirious turns on that shrunken stage, you find yourself thinking of an angel dancing on the head of a pin. Her partner was Inaki Urlezaga, who replaced Jonathan Cope. The 22-year-old Argentinian soloist has lately enjoyed a meteoric promotion to principal roles.

Normally, when Guillem's scheduled partner is indisposed, the Royal Ballet is obliged to import expensive substitutes from Paris or Berlin. The mere fact that she would tolerate Urlezaga as a replacement suggested hidden talents. His solo sequences were carefully polished but (understandable) terror made his acting a little wooden during the pas de deux. For some reason he chose to turn his back on Guillem throughout her ravishing ballroom solo. He may look cute but the man must be an idiot.

To 17 Jan (booking: 0171-404 4000). Guillem dances tonight, Saturday

Comments