The Royal Ballet proudly displays its heritage in a triple bill featuring works by founder choreographers Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, rounded off with a Russian import of grand Imperial classicism courtesy of Rudolf Nureyev.
Newly minted principal dancer Marcelino Sambé and rising star Anna Rose O’Sullivan ace the first movement of MacMillan’s plotless Concerto (set to Shostakovich and created in 1966 during the choreographer’s tenure at the Deutsche Oper Ballet in Berlin). O’Sullivan dances with a sunbeam brightness and zest to match her tangerine-coloured costume, selling MacMillan’s sudden vaudevillian shimmies with witty charisma and spontaneous musicality.
Ashton’s Enigma Variations, last revived in 2011, is a richly detailed and subtly shaded portrait of Edward Elgar’s particular social milieu, with superb domestic designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman. Amid the comings-and-goings of tweedy eccentrics (the bulldozer personality of Matthew Ball’s Arthur Troyte Griffith is a highlight) Christopher Saunders movingly renders the composer’s personal and musical insecurities. The ‘Nimrod’ variation is a memorable evocation of mature friendship; catching at the shifting currents of conversation and companionship with a finespun physicality.
Last seen in 2012, Nureyev’s version of the third act of Petipa’s Raymonda is a glittering confection of Hungarian character dance and classical grandeur.
As the titular princess, Sarah Lamb starts out with a filigree delicacy that modulates into riveting drama: like some uniquely glamorous feline, her bourrées seem to purr with a rippling smoothness. Princely Vadim Muntagirov follows suit with pantherine leaps and there’s strong support from the soloists and fluffy-hatted corps.