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Serenade, Sweet Violets, DGV

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The strength of the Royal Ballet is often said to be the diversity of its repertory and the range of its dancers – this is on clear view in this mixed bill, which includes both narrative and plotless ballet as well as lyrical and athletic styles.

It opens with George Balanchine’s Serenade, a sublime interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s music of the same name. It is a pure dance work made when the Balanchine first arrived in New York in 1933. It evokes the process by which ordinary women become ballerinas, just as Balanchine demonstrates how movement becomes choreography – that is, how it adds up to more than just steps. Marianela Nunez is excellent as the lead, although occasionally her gesturing was overly emphatic.

Next is fledgling dancemaker Liam Scarlett’s narrative ballet Sweet Violets. Revived from 2012, it is an intense reimagining of how the artist Walter Sickert was influenced by the murder in 1907 of the prostitute Emily Dimmock. The sets by John Macfarlane are inspired, and the dancers cannot be faulted, but the hour-long piece is dramatically confusing. It features a lot of characters with multiple cross-relationships in several locations – all of which is muddling.

Last is Christopher Wheeldon’s fast-paced Danse a Grande Vitesse, first produced in 2012. Set to Michael Nyman’s eponymous score, it is an exuberant if mono-tonal work with a daft set. However, it is notable for Natalia Osipova’s debut in the ballet. The Russian dancer – new to the Royal Ballet this season – once again demonstrates her impressive range and style.

Sarah Frater

  • Royal Opera House, London
  • May 14-26
  • Composers: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergey Rachmaninoff, Michael Nyman
  • Choreographers: George Balanchine, Liam Scarlett, Christopher Wheeldon
  • Producer: The Royal Ballet
  • Cast includes: Marianela Nunez, Lauren Cuthbertson, Laura Morera, Sarah Lamb, Federico Bonelli, Natalia Osipova
  • Running time: 3hrs

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The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.