Louise Levene

Wayne’s world

Ballet would have been an obvious revenue stream for Sadler’s Wells when it reopened back in 1998 but straight-up classics have been few and far between over the past two decades — the Rothbart of the Royal Ballet of Flanders’ Swan Lake wore a live owl on his head. And yet, while the theatre’s programming

Pretty vacant

Alice is at it again. Christopher Wheeldon’s 2011 three-act ballet began another sell-out run at Covent Garden last week. It’s a joy to look at and packed with featured roles that show off the Royal Ballet’s strength in depth. If only it weren’t such a bore: thinly written characters; anodyne choreography and zero dramatic tension.

Not vintage Mariinsky

Not really a vintage Mariinsky season — an odd choice of repertoire and some hit-and-miss male casting — but the Covent Garden run ended on a glorious high. Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère is a lightly curried love triangle about a handsome warrior torn between his betrothed (a Rajah’s daughter) and a beautiful temple dancer. Old-fashioned?

Mad about the boy | 3 August 2017

Tall, handsome boys with long legs and beautifully arched feet do not grow on trees (if only). Every ballet director knows this and yet tall, handsome Xander Parish spent five years blushing unseen in the Covent Garden chorus. The London critics soon spotted him — a rogue tulip in the ensemble — but it was

Triple thrill | 8 June 2017

Thrilling debuts, starry guests and a tear-stained farewell at Covent Garden this week as the Royal Ballet closed the season with a triple bill of works by Sir Frederick Ashton. The company’s founder choreographer could often be spotted lurking at the back of the house during Marius Petipa’s Sleeping Beauty enjoying ‘a private lesson’. Today’s

Scarlet women

A Covent Garden barfly was scanning her programme during the first interval: ‘Oh yes, the one about the gynaecologist.’ She meant Strapless, of course, an attempt to tell the back story to John Singer Sargent’s ‘Portrait of Madame X’, which scandalised the Paris Salon of 1884. ‘Madame X’ was Amélie Gautreau, a Creole beauty who

The unhappy Prince

A tragic flaw is one thing — every hero should have one — but Mayerling’s Rudolf, a syphilitic drug addict with a mother fixation and a death wish, is a very hard man to love. Kenneth MacMillan’s 1978 ballet, currently being revived at Covent Garden, tells the complex tale of the Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary

First Bourne

‘Modern’ dance was no laughing matter in 1987. Harold King, director of the now-defunct London City Ballet, cattily typified it as ‘lesbians in bovver boots playing a mouth organ and banging a drum on the banks of the Thames’. Camp, funny and unashamedly ‘accessible’, even Matthew Bourne’s earliest efforts were a far cry from the

Dazzled by Balanchine

A trio of dazzling scores, the soft clack of gemstones on hips and collarbones, a glittering parure of solos, duets and ensembles: George Balanchine’s Jewels returns to the Covent Garden repertoire to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The ballet’s three plotless elements celebrate the various facets of classical dance. ‘Emeralds’, set to snatches of Gabriel Fauré,

Bravura bling

There was a nasty sound of pens being sharpened last week as Royal Ballet runaway Sergei Polunin prepared to unveil his latest venture. The reviews were as dire as the show but the overriding mood was one of regret that so great a talent should have lost its way. Project Polunin’s triple bill was cannily

Mirror, mirror | 16 March 2017

The exit signs were switched off and the stalls were in utter darkness. One by one, 15 invisible dancers, their joints attached to tiny spotlights, began to colonise the far end of the hall, forming fresh constellations with every pose. The audience smiled in wonder, like tots at a planetarium. Tree of Codes, which had

Mistaken identity

The Romanovs were a hot topic in 1967: it was the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, memories of Ingrid Bergman’s Oscar winning Anastasia were still fresh and Robert Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra was on every bestseller list. Kenneth MacMillan was ‘sick to death of fairy tales’ and his one act treatment of the Anna