Bolshoi's pointless routines lack lustre

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The Bolshoi's reputation as one of the greatest ballet companies in the world was in jeopardy last night after a lacklustre start to its five-week gala season at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The visit, billed as the dance event of the century, could turn into a disaster unless the dancers settle in quickly to a venue which seemed to intimidate them. The company was not ready to open last night.

The Albert Hall's stage protruding halfway into the arena dwarfed the dancers, who seemed uncertain where to go and what to do. The size of the venue also diminished the spectacle.

The formula - highlights from popular ballets and single acts - is a risky one. The Golden Age, the first in a triple bill, was presented as highlights, which removed any dramatic tension and reduced it to a pointless series of fragmented routines.

Perhaps it was first-night nerves but the dancers seemed down-hearted; there was none of the sharp-edged brilliance of the 1986 and 1989 visits. Swan Lake was livelier but highlighted the risks of presenting only one act. There was no time to warm to the characters.

Only in Romeo and Juliet did the forceful style of Yuri Grigorovich, the artistic director, show through. The pas de deux between Romeo (Yuri Klevtsov) and Juliet (Nadezhda Gracheva) showed that the huge venue can contain magical moments.