Choice extracts from Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe company repertoire make up the programme for Ballet Ireland’s current tour - The Red Shoes is included because Diaghilev supposedly inspired one of its characters.
The Wakefield Theatre Royal stage has what seems an uncomfortably steep rake but it does not appear to inhibit the dancers. They open with Les Sylphides, which is gracefully and gently done. Melanie Perks makes the most of her solos and Michael Berkin, who has a contortionist’s ankles, gives her good support in their duets.
Each extract is thoughtfully presented and decorated. L’Apres-Midi d’un Faune seems bathed in sunlight. Le Spectre de la Rose is danced in a school gym after a summer fayre. Exciting costumes add to the visual appeal.
The programme is varied in tone, colour and humour. A Dying Swan, from Agnes Chlebowsky, does fit oddly. Nothing at all to do with Chlebowsky’s dancing, which is rather good. More the balance of the programme. Chlebowsky is excellent in the Red Shoes. She dons the eponymous footwear and her delight and initial awkwardness are enchanting. Stephen Brennan’s shoemaker has a lovely blend of comedy and mystery. The foreboding simmers impressively.
Le Sacre Du Printemps provides a thrilling climax. The corps members wear black wigs, purple tops and wildly swaying skirts and look splendidly raunchy. Amy Drew, dressed completely in white, figures prominently and significantly.
Ballet Ireland has freshness, charm and verve in its work. Unfortunately, the company’s programme and infuriatingly unhelpful cast list do not make a reviewer’s life easy.