Arts and Entertainment The Strictly Come Dancing cast pose at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Wembley Arena, London

Dance / Royal Ballet triple bill ROH, London

Balanchine detector vans patrol the globe making quite sure that any ballet company planning to perform one of the master's works has a valid licence to do so. Anthony Dowell had allowed the Royal Ballet's rights to Apollo to lapse last year but planned to revive the work this spring regardless. Oh no you don't, said the Balanchine Trust. Not only does it safeguard the steps, costumes and staging of the productions in its care, it also exercises strict quality-control over casting. Although more than happy with Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope - not to mention NYCB's Igor Zelensky, who was scheduled to guest in the ballet - the Americans were uncertain about Irek Mukhamedov. Maybe if he slimmed down? Could they give him the once-over at the final dress-rehearsal? This wasn't acceptable to Anthony Dowell, so the Trust withdrew the Royal Ballet's rights to perform the work at all and an 11th-hour substitute had to be found. Perhaps wishing to compensate Mukhamedov for the humiliating loss of Apollo, they settled on The Judas Tree, Kenneth MacMillan's dirty story of gang rape and betrayal. Whatever the technical merits of this nasty piece of work, it's a bloody strange ballet to substitute for the neo- classical masterpiece the audience had booked to see. Last Wednesday's crowd certainly seemed unhappy with the switch.

arts notebook

The arts took centre stage, literally, in the election campaign yesterday. Sir Richard Eyre allowed the National Theatre's Lyttelton auditorium to host the main arts debate of the campaign. The only pity was that the cast was one of understudies.

DANCE: Romeo and Juliet Royal Opera House, London

The mouthwatering prospect of Darcey Bussell and Igor Zelensky starring in Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet attracted a capacity crowd at the Royal Opera House on Tuesday. The couple's bravura dancing in Bayadere earlier this month was a big hit with the crowd and Zelensky's huge jump and manly bearing are a rare sight on a stage too often starved of excitement.

Bussell and Guillem slug it out

DANCE

DANCE: Pas de trois of the personalities

La Bayadere Royal Opera House, London

Eye Sight

Most men who leave their fiancees for richer women with better social connections can expect little more than an attack on their wardrobes with the dressmaking scissors. Solor, the hero of Petipa's 1877 melodrama La Bayadere, gets harsher treatment. The gods, outraged at his treatment of the lovely temple dancer, Nikiya, stage the collapse of the temple during his wedding to her rival, the scheming Rajah's daughter Gamzatti. It's rubbish, but it's imperial rubbish and Natalia Makarova's 1989 production for the Royal Ballet manages to salvage a little of the magic.

Dance / Whatever happened to the laughter?

Push Comes to Shove Royal Ballet, Covent Garden

Sir Anthony, please take note

DANCE

Review: BALLET Swan Lake Royal Opera House, London

A nasty dose of flu and a broken foot prevented Darcey Bussell and Adam Cooper from dancing Swan Lake on Saturday afternoon. Their places were taken by Deborah Bull and Inaki Urlezaga. Urlezaga, a 21-year-old Argentinian, was a surprise choice for Siegfried. Tall, handsome and elegant, he had previously danced Siegfried with the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires but he is still only a lowly first artist with the Royal Ballet. However, with Stuart Cassidy off sick and Jonathan Cope busy partnering Sylvie Guillem in the evening performance, Urlezaga was the only suitable partner for Bussell. The plot thickened when Bussell herself got flu. Urlezaga, having been promised the role, got to partner Deborah Bull instead.

All set

The Royal Ballet's 'Sleeping Beauty' rattles along despite the best efforts of the designer.

Don't blame it on the ballet

As the Royal Ballet's `Cinderella' and the Kirov's `Nutcracker' bow out today, Louise Levene reflects on two productions that, despite their star turns, never quite believe in their own magic

THE BEST OF 97

FESTIVALS

Dance: Old but bold

Moments That Made The Year: Veterans such as Mikhail Baryshnikov (right) and revived classics were the class of '96. By Louise Levene

DANCE ON TELEVISION

The highlight of the usual Christmas television dance bonanza this year must surely be Adventures in Motion Pictures' widely acclaimed production of Swan Lake (Boxing Day 8.30pm-10.30pm BBC2). Commonly dubbed an all-male ballet it is, in fact nothing of the kind. What is male about it is Matthew Bourne's corps of big, half-naked male swans (left). Bourne, having spotted that the swan is not a skinny, fluffy little thing but a large aggressive bird with a nasty streak, decided that the swans should be danced by men. His prince is an unhappy man in the long shadow of his mother, a career queen with no time for emotional relationships. She makes time for sexual ones, and swans around her court talent-spotting among the palace guard. Emotionally crippled by this less-than-ideal domestic set-up, the unhappy prince goes off into the night in search of human contact. What he finds is a large male swan (danced by the incredible Adam Cooper) who provides him with a glimpse of wider horizons. In the second half of the work, Bourne subverts the familiar scenario of the Petipa/Ivanov Act III by having the Black Swan arrive in the ballroom in black leather and proceed to flirt aggressively with every woman in the room. The performances are exceptional, Brotherson's designs are witty and sharp, and the choreography for the swans is inspired. Be prepared to laugh moderately throughout, and weep at the end.

DANCE: Cinderella; City Ballet / Royal Ballet, London

The ballet pound in Londoners' pockets is under siege this Christmas by companies offering Christmas treats. Although not as bad as some years, when as many as three Nutcrackers have been on offer, we still have a situation in which four companies have only two stories between them: The Nutcracker and Cinderella. We all know that productions differ hugely, and that it's fascinating to compare and contrast, yet nobody but a critic is likely to fancy Cinderella twice in a season - let alone twice in a day.
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