Rupert Christiansen

The highlight was a dazzling duet from Pam Tanowitz: The Royal Ballet – A Diamond Celebration reviewed

Plus: watch out for Joseph Toonga – what he does next will be sensational

Francisco Serrano and artists of the Royal Ballet in Joseph Toonga’s See Us!!. Credit: Andrej Uspenski

The Koh-i-Noor in this Diamond Celebration of 60 years of the Friends of the Royal Opera House garnered the least applause: Dispatch, a dazzlingly lucid duet newly choreographed by Pam Tanowitz, to a thrilling thrash of a score by Ted Hearne. Dressed in 1960s sports kit with white floppy short shorts, William Bracewell and Anna Rose O’Sullivan engage in a steely contest that brings them together and forces them apart, their arms flattened and their faces expressionless as they push and pull, box and fence. Echoes of Merce Cunningham and Balanchine’s Agon abound – who is in control here? – but Tanowitz has an entirely distinctive style of her own that is both witty and cogent.

There are no loose ends, no dead patches where the music is merely reflected; every step counts, every flick, turn and bend registers, and Bracewell and O’Sullivan deliver them with forensic concentration and precision. This is ballet of complex formal intensity, and the moment it ended, I wanted to see it again, never mind the tepid reception.

Nothing else had quite the same impact on me, but there was something for everyone in a generously long programme and I’m certainly not complaining about the overall quality of the Royal Ballet’s current dancing – it’s as high as I can remember for decades. (And at this point let me just slip in praise for Melissa Hamilton and Lukas B Braendsrod in Wayne McGregor’s unnervingly sexy Qualia.)

The moment it ended, I wanted to see it again

Of the other novelties, the most feeble was a wisp of fluff by Benoit Swan Pouffer for Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae. Osipova seems to have either bad luck or bad judgment when it comes to her admirable appetite for new work.

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