Thanks to the characters and story which Jean Dauberval invented in 1789, La Fille Mal Gardee is perhaps the most likeable of all classical ballets, to which Frederick Ashton’s inspired but traditional new version gave fresh life in 1960.
Lucky Miyako Yoshida and Viacheslav Samodurov to be the first of no fewer than six casts as Lise and Colas in this season’s revival - they looked as happy with the roles as we are to see them.
Samodurov brings bigger jumps and more assured turns to his virtuoso solos than we generally see nowadays, but more important is the way he makes the young farmer so confident, lively and loving, letting the fun shine through his performance. He gives the impression that he feels and understands the purpose of every step. Yoshida, attractively straightforward in manner, dances with crisp assurance and sensibly follows Ashton’s own recommendation to let his choreography do the story-telling.
It is too bad that William Tuckett is so busy mugging up his role as Lise’s mother, Widow Simone, that he apparently forgets altogether the femininity which should be its most vital aspect.
As Colas’s daft comic rival Alain, Jose Martín has every reason to feel pleased with his dancing, but it might suit the character better if he did not let that show so much. Good to see that the too-dim lighting of the last big duet has been rectified this season. It is also gratifying that Ashton’s gorgeous ensembles of villagers and harvesters are done with so much spirit, while Lise’s lovely group of friends were cast at a surprisingly but deservedly high level.