Not quite a ball


LONDON City Ballet - more than any other classical dance company we have - prides itself on its accessibility. Accessible in that it visits theatres all over Britain, accessible in the kind of work it presents: easy on the eye, nothing too challenging. So when it announced that 23- year-old Matthew Hart, a Royal Ballet protege, was to choreograph a new, full-length Cinderella for its dancers, eyebrows arched. Perhaps Hart would bring the company the bit of edge it wanted, and the hit so badly needed to secure its future. Just think of what that other Matthew did with The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

But it turns out that Hart has not really had a free hand. Lumbered with sets and costumes from a previous staging, what emerges is traditional and unremarkable. He moves the story along briskly enough and patterns the stage attractively, but the images one takes home are less of glittering choreography than of little gilt chairs and mountains of sparkly tulle.

Hart may have been daunted by precedent. Frederick Ashton's Cinderella is still remembered fondly, especially for Ashton's own performance as an Ugly Sister. Hart's comic touch is unsure. He adds one new character - Buttons, from pantomime - but perversely declines to use men as the Ugly Sisters on the grounds that it would smack too much of farce. So a sweetly drooping Cinderella is flanked by two not-remotely-ugly ballerinas who must strain for comic effect by constant grimacing and bumping into one another.

Prokofiev's score is not his most memorable, but it does have a sinuous dark quality that hints at murky undercurrents in the plot. Drunkenness, deviancy, jealousy, bitter abuse: Hart might have picked up any of these threads to weave a more interesting fabric. Things begin to look up when in an early scene he devises a violently strutting, chin- jutting sequence for stepmother and daughters, but this burst of invention is not followed through.

If family entertainment is what LCB ordered, that is what it got, complete with cut-out-and-keep Prince, and a godmother in pink who wafts her arms in the air so often you suspect she is trying to rid the stage of bad smells, not spells. But there is some lovely dancing from the principals, and enough committed prettiness from the corps to keep any number of children, and their great-grannies, enthralled.

Paradoxically, a more challenging experience of the story is provided by The Starlight Cloak, a musical show devised for children by Polka Theatre in Wimbledon. There are, the programme claims, around 600 variants of Cinderella. This one dates back to 12th-century Ireland and stands out by having the abused heroine (here named Una) married by the interval. The rest of the tale describes her furious sisters' revenge.

The production finds mention here for the inclusion of striking choreography based on traditional Irish dance, accompanied on stage by some very nifty tin-whistle playing and haunting ballad singing. Polka has a reputation for meticulous research and its value is felt in every minute of The Starlight Cloak, which succeeds in telling a complex tale with wit and pace and offers a vivid picture of Celtic culture too.

When Una needs a carriage to go to the ceilidh, her godmother summons help from the fairy folk, the Sidh ("shee"), and out of the eerie gloom a delicately prancing girl-horse trips a measure of soft-shoe to the sound of pipe and drum. When Una needs rescuing from the belly of a whale (a miracle on the tiny stage), the Sidh reappears as a clattering, clog-dancing warrior horse. These solo dance sequences (performed with a fine sensuousness by Marianne March) make the dramatic highpoints of the piece, and surely come as close to the true spirit of Celtic dance as the overblown Riverdance.

The Royal Ballet rounds off a year of devotions to Frederick Ashton with a double bill reviving his neat, one-act "skating ballet", Les Patineurs, as an elegant foil to his Tales of Beatrix Potter, a work which survives more for its amazing fairy masks than for its gambolling and frisking. Les Patineurs, created in 1937 with a very young Margot Fonteyn as the glamorous dancer in white, sums up Ashton's gift to the world in just half an hour of bliss.

On the surface, it is a modish conceit - a stage set like an outdoor ice-rink and ballet dancers pretending to be on skates. But typically, it is also a compact study of academic dance, based on just five steps which are ingeniously reversed, inverted and developed by different groups of dancers, building to a bravura display of fast pirouetting that would drill a hole through the thickest of ice. What did the Royal Ballet do before it found Tetsuya Kumakawa? The central, shoulder-shrugging Fred Astaire role might have been made for him. As the curtain falls, he's spinning like a top. As it lifts its skirts again he is still spinning. The show-off.

`Cinderella': Sadler's Wells, EC1 (0171 713 6000), to 6 Jan. `The Starlight Cloak': Polka, SW19 (0181 543 4888), to 3 Feb. Ashton Bill: ROH, WC2 (0171 304 4000), to 6 Jan.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
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
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little