The return of Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin to The Royal Ballet, albeit as guest performers, was the big draw of the company’s latest mixed bill. Rojo shifted careers last summer from dancer to the new director of English National Ballet, while Polunin made a dramatic exit a year ago for the freedoms of an indie career. Seeing them both on stage reprising their performances in Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand didn’t disappoint, with the two artists demonstrating unrivalled acting and dancing finesse.
Tamara Rojo (Marguerite) and Sergei Polunin (Armand) in Marguerite and Armand from the Ashton mixed bill at the Royal Opera House, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Rojo has long been hailed as a fine dance-actress, and her portrayal of the doomed Marguerite conveyed all too clearly the heroine’s plight. Polunin’s acting was equally acute, although his dancing occasionally looked a little imprecise (by his standards, that is) - probably the result of dashing in from Moscow where he’s currently based with Igor Zelensky, the one-time Kirov dancer and director of the Stanislavsky Ballet.
Inevitably, the rest of the programme paled next to these mega-watt stars, although individual performances shone. Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell were wonderfully playful in Voices of Spring, while Marinaela Nunez, Federico Bonelli and Edward Watson showed everyone how it should be done in Monotones II - a glorious slow chicane of a ballet. There are endless debates in the dance world over the Ashton legacy - the Royal’s founder choreographer has a very precise style, and preserving in the modern age is a challenge, not least because dancers have so many different styles to perform. If this programme is any guide, Ashton is partially secure.