Le Corsaire, English National Ballet, and people-trafficking

Tamara Rojo was, for many years, one of the Royal Ballet’s foremost principal dancers. She has proved equally surefooted as the newly ensconced director of English National Ballet. After an initial season of smartly programmed triple bills, Le Corsaire is her first commissioned work, a way of throwing down the gauntlet, announcing that ENB is playing in the big league. This full-length work from the classical tradition showcases her new star, Alina Cojocaru, whom Rojo adeptly poached after that luminous dancer’s abrupt and messy departure from the Royal Opera House.

Rojo has said that she chose this work in part because it is not in the repertory of any other British company. It can be, as such, “owned” by ENB. And that it has three, rather than the more conventional one, virtuoso male roles was no doubt a factor too. La Bayadère, a similar choice, is regularly danced by the Royal, and has far fewer soloist parts.

The choreography is nominally by Petipa, but much of it is in reality the work of Konstantin Sergeyev, with the famous pas de trois (usually performed in galas as a pas de deux) choreographed for the virtuoso Vakhtang Chabukiani in the 1930s. Anna-Marie Holmes, who mounted this production, has smoothed out many of the bumps between styles, and the dance flows well – the romantic pas de deux for Medora (Cojocaru) and Conrad (Vadim Muntagirov) that follows the more athletic pas de trois gives Act Two, in particular, a depth and richness that are relished by Cojocaru and Muntagirov (with, in the pas de trois, the excellent Junor Souza as Ali; he is now not only stylishly virtuosic, but has an elegance and fineness of bearing that mark him out as something special). The delicate “Jardin Animé” classical scene in Act Three, when the evil pasha (the splendid Michael Coleman) dreams that his concubines have become a dancing garden, highlights the delightfully precise Shiori Kase, a perfect Petipa heroine.

Rojo has also roped in Hollywood, in the person of the designer Bob Ringwood (Empire of the Sun and the Batman franchise are among his credits). All too often at the moment, theatre or film designers are asked to produce ballet without any experience of the requirements of this different art form, and their sets and costumes impede rather than impel the evening. Ringwood has the background in performance art (Swan Lakes and a Raymonda), and his designs are accomplished, drawing on Bollywood as well as nineteenth-century pastiche Orientalism in art and architecture to create what seems an oxymoron, a coherent fantasy-land. (Special mention must be made for the zenana of Act Three, which encloses the concubines at the end of the “Jardin Animé”: both frightening and elegant, a really efficient piece of staging.)

But there are downsides to Corsaire that are difficult to overlook. Artistically, the libretto and the score are highly problematic. The title and the characters’ names are from Byron, but the plot is standard pirate abduction-rescue melodrama fodder, repeated over and over to permit lots of dancing. Meanwhile, the score is a patchwork, from good composers on a bad day (Delibes) to adequate (Adolphe Adam, Minkus), to bad-to-terrible (Cesare Pugni, Drigo, Yuli Gerber, Albert Zabel, Prince Pyotr II van Oldenburg and Baron Boris Fitinhof-Schnell; and, although ENB doesn’t list him, I think the work of Prince Nikita Trubetskoi also makes an appearance).

Ultimately, even the music pales into insignificance when considering the problems of the plot. For it is impossible to overlook the fact that Le Corsaire is about slavery, about selling people (mostly women) for cash. Holmes has carefully removed the anti-Semitic stereotypes that continue to linger in the Russian versions: no longer are the slavers hook-nosed, but now “merely” avaricious. But she cannot omit the selling itself: it is Corsaire’s core. Transforming the pasha from despot to comic character seems sensible, but do we really want to laugh sympathetically with a slave-owner? And while the production works hard to allow us to think the pirates are “good” while the slavers are “bad”, the plot does not really allow it. Medora begs Conrad to release the slaves his pirate band has captured, which he does, but she, and everyone else on stage, is apparently comfortable with him as the owner of the slave Ali.

How classics of previous ages are reinterpreted to meet the values of our times is always a renegotiation: we no longer watch blacked-up Othellos, and Shylock is a perennial problem. Yet somehow these questions are not being considered in dance. Is it the lack of language that makes the performances seem other-worldly, not part of our own moral universe? I don’t know what the answer is, but I am concerned that no one, ENB included, appears to think that there is a need to ask the questions.

Published in the TLS, 16 January 2014

English National Ballet/National Ballet of Canada

Marketing leaves nothing untouched in the twenty-first century. Tamara Rojo, the newly appointed director of English National Ballet, knows this well and proficiently plays the game. Thus for her first piece of programming, she has linked three works by an overarching title, appearing to give coherence to an evening that in reality has little.

Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort (1991) has the full panoply of Kylián tics dancegoers have come to expect: gorgeous lighting (by Kylián and Joop Caboort), coups de théâtre (a bronze sheet snapped over an empty stage, then peeled back to reveal the dancers) and lyricism combined with a weighty, muscular attack in a series of splayed, legs-wide pas de deux and ensembles. As the curtain rises, six men dextrously manipulate fencing rapiers, obvious symbols for the phalluses implicit in the work’s title, before they are replaced by six women, shrouded by black ballgowns on castors, which frame and constrict them. The heavy-handed symbolism, combined with the music (two slow movements ripped from different Mozart piano concertos), creates a sense of slick stylishness, leaving the viewer by the end feeling that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Études, by Harald Lander, has been a company standard since 1955, racking up nearly 800 performances. It too concentrates on style over substance, although in more literal fashion as the company works its way through a formalized version of every dancer’s daily class, beginning with pliés at the barre, through centre-practice, turns and jumps. The music, Carl Czerny’s piano exercises for students (orchestrated by Knudåge Riisager), is also that of pedagogy rather than performance. Yet Lander takes these two plunkingly mundane elements and transcends their form by creating a meditation on the virtuosity of the everyday. Études can certainly be read merely as a party piece, a gala show of bravura. But it has lasted because it examines how performers build public personas out of private endeavour. The piece requires enormous technical achievement from its three leads, which was only intermittently present (Vadim Muntagirov alone acquitted himself with honour), but as a measure of where a company stands at any moment, it is revealing – perhaps excessively so.

Nicolas le Riche, a guest artist from Paris Opéra Ballet, can also find virtuosity in the everyday, and his star wattage made short work of Roland Petit’s Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, a nominally existential examination of love and death. A young man (le Riche) waits for his lover (Rojo); she is alternately indifferent and beguiling, luring him to suicide. When she reappears in a skull mask, she is death itself. It was hokum in 1946, in warracked Europe; it is hokum now, but le Riche dances it with raw passion and meticulous technique, an admirable and rarely achieved combination. Rojo, as company director, had no one to tell her to tone herself down: she was therefore sexy without producing any sense of foreboding, not ideal for the personification of death.

At Sadler’s Wells, the National Ballet of Canada made its first London appearance in twenty-six years, with Alexei Ratmansky’s new version of Romeo and Juliet. Ratmansky is one of the most acclaimed choreographers working at the moment (his first work for the Royal Ballet was reviewed in the TLS on March 8), and he is a rarity in the current dance world in that he has substantial experience of choreographing narrative ballets. Dance versions of Romeo and Juliet tend to focus either on the central love story or on the warring worlds of Capulet and Montague. (Kenneth MacMillan’s version manages to combine both threads, one reason it has become the standard production across the world.) Ratmansky removes the social context of the play almost entirely, giving us Verona-lite, with only a dozen or so townspeople, who remain undifferentiated. The sets, by Richard Hudson, are similarly neutral, relying on simple blocks of Renaissancefresco colours to convey place and time, although his costumes tip from simplicity into caricature, with the corps women in their striped dresses seeming to have wandered in from a production of Oklahoma!

And unfortunately, caricature prevails. Ratmansky trained at the Bolshoi, and was briefly its director, and the plot and acting follow the Bolshoi’s melodramatic silent-film style: there are visions of future events told in a sort of split-screen effect; an old-fashioned tableau ending; and the drama is conveyed by much shaking of fists and pointing fingers miming “Go, and never darken my doors again!”.

As Romeo, Guillaume Côté, a wonderful dancer, manages to shake all this off, his youthful ardour and lovely springy step elucidating with devastating ease Ratmansky’s delicate skeins of beaten turns and fleeting changes of direction. His Juliet, Heather Ogden, a pleasant but less nuanced dancer, by contrast appears prim rather than ardent: we never see her carried away, and can’t quite work out why she doesn’t just settle for Paris.

Like this Juliet, the ballet itself has no overarching rush of ardour, or even drama, to match Prokofiev’s score. It is instead a series of set pieces, often beautiful, but never emotionally engaging. The trios for Romeo and his friends (Piotr Stanczyk turning Mercutio into high camp, and Robert Stephen as Benvolio) are the most balletically achieved moments of the evening, their joyous camaraderie finally finding expression in the choreography rather than in mime.

Ultimately, Ratmansky’s sophisticated step-building never manages to eradicate a sense of earnestness and sincerity that infuses the production. These are both positive attributes, but they are not remotely suitable to the subject at hand.

Royal Ballet, winter season 2012/13

The great dance critic Richard Buckle once famously reviewed a winter season by remarking that each Christmas brings us “one Nutcracker closer to death”, and certainly it is possible to note the passing of the years by watching the Swans migrate, then the Firebirds.

Kevin O’Hare has now seen his first full season as company director at the Royal Ballet, and, although much of the repertoire was, of necessity, planned before he took over the reins, it was possible to begin to discern the outlines of his aspirations, perhaps most fully as the season reached its final stages.

The highlight was 24 Preludes, a new ballet by Alexei Ratmansky, the man currently saddled with the title “Saviour of Classical Dance”. He may or may not be, but he is certainly a choreographer of greatness, and in this, his first work for the Royal Ballet (indeed, his first work in Britain), he has made a piece that will surely become a company staple. Ratmansky usually works intensively with selected companies, his knowledge of company style and the strengths of individual dancers informing each new piece. Here he lacked that in-depth knowledge, and his readings of his eight performers – Leanne Benjamin, Alina Cojocaru, Sarah Lamb and Zenaida Yanowsky, Valeri Hristov, Steven McRae, Edward Watson and Rupert Pennefather – sometimes seems superficial, concentrating on their most obvious qualities – Cojocaru’s quicksilver brightness, Watson’s extreme extensions, Pennefather’s rather stolid mien – instead of mining for something deeper.

Yet within these parameters, Ratmansky has nevertheless created a true dance world, investing a series of social meetings and turnings away into a fully formed emotional landscape.

The formality of structure suggests a Chekhovian grouping, reflected in the minimalist rippled background (beautifully lit by Neil Austin, and presumably also designed by him, although that remains uncredited), which transforms itself from stormy sky to shimmering aquaeous surface to Ilya Repin-like greenery.

By turns gentle, tumultuous and charming, Ratmansky’s choreographic invention never fails, moving from an opening section of turns and sighing falls, through a pas de trois where the tall Zenaida Yanowsky does the lifting of the smaller Steven McRae. The piece is about performance, as much as it is performance, with several tongue-in-cheek reminders that Chopin’s Preludes have a dance heritage: Les Sylphides is gestured at, and when the four men return at the end, searching for their women, they arrive in formation like the Wilis in Giselle, hunting their prey. More obviously the linked-dance format refers back to Jerome Robbins’s Dances at a Gathering, and Ratmansky’s own Russian Seasons. That latter drama of elemental life and renewal is here replicated more decorously, in a somewhat muted manner – an “English Seasons”, perhaps.

The piece is certainly not perfect. Ratmansky has lumbered himself with Jean Françaix’s orchestration of the Preludes Op 28, which is not only uninspiring, but the complete set is theatrically too long. The entries and exits, forcibly tied to the demands of the Preludes, thus become an important motif – 24 Preludes, that’s forty-six entrances and exits in forty-one minutes. Even with a choreographer as fecund as Ratmansky, it risks becoming slightly risible.

Despite these reservations, it may very well be that this is the best work the Royal has commissioned since the death of Kenneth MacMillan. There have been works taken into the repertory in this time that are its equal, but none that has been commissioned by the company. For this alone, O’Hare’s debut season is worthy of praise.

Some of the other programmes are less sure-footed. A programme dedicated to the work of the Royal’s founder-choreographer, Frederick Ashton, marked the quarter-century since his death. But what a puzzling programme it was, made up of what must, with the best will in the world, be called odds and ends. In 1920, Diaghilev rejected Ravel’s La Valse as being entirely unsuitable for dance. Choreographers have since taken that as a challenge: Nijinska used the music in the 1920s, and Ashton and Balanchine set themselves the task in the 1950s. Both the latter, it must be said, prove Diaghilev’s shrewdness: Ravel’s flickering score, shifting between heartbeat-regular rhythms underneath and ghostly, evanescent skeins of sound on the surface, allows no purchase for dancing. At the time, Ashton turned in a dutiful gala piece, but its continued appearance over half a century later is a mystery.

In fact, all of O’Hare’s choices for this memorial programme are pièces d’occasion: the “Meditation” from Thaïs and “white” Monotones are also gala confections, Voices of Spring is an insert pas de deux for a production of Die Fledermaus, and Marguerite et Armand a celebrity vehicle for Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.

Monotones is, simply, a masterpiece. Satie’s music obviously captivated Ashton, and after the white section to Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies, he created a “green” section to the first Gnossienne as a prelude. Performed by Emma Maguire, Akane Takada and Dawid Trzensimiech, Marianela Nuñez, Federico Bonelli and Edward Watson, both the bouncier green and the more linear white were danced with the detached, eerie gravitas that this otherworldly, almost lunar, piece demands.

The remaining works on the programme, however, are, on a sliding scale, anything from charming gala lollipops (Voices of Spring, with Yuhui Choe and the young Alexander Campbell making enjoyable, if not profound, debuts) to chemical candy floss (“Meditation” from Thaïs) right down to unadulterated saccharine (Marguerite et Armand). Why a choreographer who produced more than six dozen works over six decades should have his career represented by a few pieces of ephemera in a memorial programme is barely comprehensible.

That Marguerite et Armand was revived as a star vehicle, is clear. Tamara Rojo, longtime principal, gave her final performances in one of Fonteyn’s last roles, the dying Dame aux Camélias, while the young Nureyev’s role was taken by Sergei Polunin. He is Ukrainian, not Russian, but otherwise the offstage parallels hold: Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union to the Royal, while Polunin fled in the opposite direction, abandoning the Royal mid-rehearsal one day, to turn up later in Moscow’s Stanislavsky Music Theatre. O’Hare has lured him back for a few guest appearances, one assumes as an overture to finding him a more permanent place as a principal guest artist, and this can only be commended: the Royal is certainly poorer for his absence.

If Rojo was pleased to bow out in this role, and Polunin found in the Nureyev comparisons a kindly welcome, well and good. But the ballet, as a ballet, is a bore. With dated designs by Cecil Beaton (the set an etiolated sub-Giacometti cage, the costumes either a series of camp embarrassments for the soloists, or a diva-ish three-costume-changes-in-thirty-three-minutes for the lead), the choreography would have to be stellar to survive, and it simply isn’t. The ageing Fonteyn was by then understandably limited, and while Rojo’s powerful sense of drama carries her audience with her, she has, in reality, little to do apart from burning looks, a few bourrées and a lot of falling to her knees. Polunin’s Armand is required to make several of the dashing runs (one complete with cape fluttering dramatically behind) so beloved of Nureyev – I half-expected him to cry “Ta-da!” as he appeared – but Ashton’s choreographic invention for him too seems curiously limited.

Another evening, another memorial to past Royal choreographers, this time an evening of works by MacMillan, twenty years after his early death. Here old favourites and a revived curiosity sit more neatly together. Concerto, an early piece to Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2, is impossible not to love with its sprightly outer movements flanking a profound central meditation on the nature of classicism. Las Hermanas, an adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba, could not be more different: a distillation of how fear and jealousy corrode and destroy. Only MacMillan could have revealed without words the icy heart of Lorca’s sexual snakepit.

Created two years later, but far more dated is John Cranko’s Onegin, which has in the past few years become a repertory staple. The work is mundane, but with juicy parts for four principals, it endures. The curious thing about it (particularly performed, as it was this season, in turn with the Royal Opera’s staging of the opera on which it is based) is how at odds the ballet is with both Pushkin and Tchaikovsky. Their Onegin is a clever, sensitive man stifled by a society that values neither of these things; Cranko’s Onegin (particularly as played by Stuttgart’s Jason Reilly, stepping in for an injured Johan Kobborg) is a crass boor. He does not reject the love-struck Tatiana, as in the poem, for sensible reasons, and with humanity; no, here he tears her letter into pieces in front of her eyes and throws them at her, pantomime-villain-style. The only redemption from such vulgarity (and it comes as a grace note in a strident evening) is that Cranko allows the possibility of married love. His Gremin and Tatiana genuinely find happiness together. Her renunciation of Onegin, therefore, is less devastating than in Pushkin, not renouncing happiness, but rather accepting that she has found it, just not where she had expected. Alina Cojocaru makes much of this gentle happiness, ably helped by Bennet Gartside as Gremin, now one of the company’s most accomplished character actors, and they bring an evening of melodramatic moustache-twiddling to a touching, quiet close.

Despite these choreographic dinosaurs, in other ways O’Hare seems determined to expand the repertoire across the classical spectrum, which is extremely satisfying. Several pieces make welcome returns: Apollo, in its original, uncut version, had performances of just-tamed ferocity (from Carlos Acosta) or childlike wonder (Federico Bonelli). One of Balanchine’s greatest works, Apollo‘s Olympian distance appears to have put off previous directors, but O’Hare has sensibly scheduled this work from 1928 as the forerunner to contemporary classical dance, opening the programme for Ratmansky’s 24 Preludes and Christopher Wheeldon’s Aeternum (to Britten’s terrifying Sinfonia da Requiem, which rather defeated him). Another neatly planned evening was one that mixed Jerome Robbins’s In the Night, long absent, with the perennial crowd-pleaser The Firebird and (another inexplicable absence) Raymonda, Act III, a dazzling confection of Glazunov’s oom-pah-ing orchestrations and Petipa’s (aided by Nureyev) Oriental/Russian scenario, all wrapped up by the silver-white splendour of Barry Kay’s Austro-Hungaro-Byzantine romp of a set. (The only one I know routinely greeted by a round of applause when the curtain rises.) Dance companies can live neither by Swan Lakes nor by new choreography alone. O’Hare has confidently displayed an ability to construct the harder-to-promote mixed bills that are the core of any repertory, and with this promising augury, we watch, hopefully, as the Swans return once more to their breeding grounds.

New York Dance: New York City Ballet and Ballet Theatre

The technical term for Ratmansky’s 2003 The Bright Stream, now in repertory at American Ballet Theater, is a ‘romp’.

That this piece can charm is a miracle itself: the 1935 original, with music by Shostakovich, a libretto by Adrian Piotrovsky and choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov, was condemned by Stalin. Piotrovsky died in the Gulag; Lopukhov was fired from the directorship of the Bolshoi and ended his days choreographing for children; Shostakovich never wrote for the theatre again. The ballet is a comedy set on a collective farm, soon after, we now know, Stalin’s engineered famine killed perhaps 10 million people. Yet Ratmansky heard Gennady Rozhdestvensky’s 1980s recording and, identifying its mix of beauty and sheer rumpty-tump danceability – ‘like Minkus, but on the level of Shostakovich’s genius’ – he created a new ballet to Lopukhov’s scenario.

Zina (Julie Kent), a farm-worker, recognizes among a group of travelling performers her former colleague, a ballerina (Isabella Boylston), even as Zina’s husband Pyotr (Ivan Vasiliev) falls for the sophisticated visitor from the city. Discovering this, the women make plans to trick him, Zina dressing up as the ballerina’s partner, while he (Johan Kobborg) in turn is forced, protesting, into the ballerina’s sylph costume.

In a typical reversal on classical style, Ratmansky gives us a first act full of divertissements, as the farmworkers and their visitors celebrate the harvest; only in the second does the plot get moving, as various men mooning after unavailable women are taught their lesson, including a lecherous accordion-player, who is prevented from seducing a schoolgirl by a tractor-driver disguised as a dog (oh, not that old plot, you cry!).

On repeated viewings, sometimes the stream does not run as brightly as it might, but Julie Kent gives Zina a quiet charm interspersed with tight, bright footwork (which contrasts oddly against the younger, less experienced Boylston, who, as the ballerina, is supposed to patronize her – those jokes fell a little flat). A bigger – or at least splashier – pleasure is Ivan Vasiliev, the ex-Bolshoi firecracker, who gives Pyotr a series of staggering jumps, as well as a charm that easily makes Zina’s continuing love for him comprehensible. A gloriously funny Johan Kobborg, once dressed as the ballerina, is alternately camp and hangdog, fleet and flatfooted, but always remains on course, demurely stealing the show from under the noses of his younger and flashier colleagues.

Ultimately, The Bright Stream is about friendship, and ABT, too often seen as a company where superstars jet in to do their turns in front of a compliant corps de ballet, in this piece becomes a place of equals, artists sharing their joy in dance.

Across the plaza, another paean to friendship is on display, as New York City Ballet revives Fancy Free, Jerome Robbins’ story of three sailors on shore-leave. Robbins’ mix of Broadway vernacular presentation and classical-dance vocabulary continues to charm, even as the men’s behaviour, in 1944 so comic, today seems to be a menacing form of harassment as they pursue every woman who crosses their paths. Andrew Veyette and Robert Fairchild strike the right all-American note, but it is Daniel Ulbricht in the ‘short friend’ role who carves more interesting shapes out of the air, shading and colouring his steps to a higher level.

No one comes out with much dignity from Peter Martins’ Jeu de Cartes, to Stravinsky. Originally created in 1992 as a leotard ballet, it has had the misfortune to be redesigned (by Ian Falconer): the corps are in white, with the card suits on their chests, but the principals are dressed as court cards, right down to mix-‘n’-match legs, one solid, one striped, or, for poor Tiler Peck as the female lead, red tights and shoes. Stravinsky’s music is, unusually, not particularly danceable – Balanchine’s attempt at the same piece was a rare miss for him, and Martins frequently has to double back choreographically and repeat and invert steps solely to fill the requisite number of bars. Yet the corps groupings, in particular, are attractive, even if the dance does not entirely capture the music’s urgent drive.

Another odd mixture is Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. Balanchine created his brilliantly virtuosic and formally classical Theme and Variations to the last movement of this orchestral suite in 1947; nearly a quarter of a century later he went back to it, adding the first three movements in Romantic style. The first three movements take place behind a scrim, in a stereotypically Romantic haze, with the women barefoot or in soft slippers, with long skirts, their hair down; in the fourth movement the scrim rises to reveal more clearly a colonnade and chandeliers as the company appears in classical tutus (virulent turquoise for the girls – as viciously unflattering as those in Jeu de Cartes).

The first sections are scenes of unfulfilled Romantic love and longing; the last is the resolution brought about by classical rigour and harmony. In the ‘Élégie’, Teresa Reichlen is an extraordinary visionary, ecstatic and nubile by turns, her tiny head and long body bending vertiginously backwards as the music and desire fills her. In the ‘Theme and Variations’ Ashley Bouder should bring the evening to a triumphant close, but her high-held head gazing up and out, past the audience, and her flat, unarticulated upper body, render prosaic what should have been a final dramatic sweep.

No one can claim that drama is missing back at ABT with their rip-roaring, scenery-chewing, forehead-clutching Onegin. Cranko’s rather creaky 1960s piece is right up their street, giving their two Russian stars (Diana Vishneva as Tatiana, Natalia Osipova as Olga) plenty of scope.

Cranko, unlike Ratmansky, seems not to have been particularly motivated by the music, which is not from Tchaikovsky’s opera, but is instead assembled from a range of the composer’s works. These were then orchestrated and shaped by Kurt-Heinz Stolze to ensure that each scene is brought, unsubtly and with metronomic regularity, crashing to a finale.

The raison-d’être of the evening, however, is the dancers. Marcelo Gomes, usually a joyous, even friendly, presence, is constricted by the role’s requirement for Byronic brooding, and is unable to do much with his material until the letter scene. As ballet has not got the grammatical syntax to unroll future or past tense plot elements, the scene in which Tatiana writes of her feelings to Onegin becomes a dream, no longer showing Tatiana’s desires, but Onegin’s response – actuality rather than expectation. But Gomes takes the half-chance he is given, and makes Onegin’s behaviour almost forgivable.

His Tatiana, Vishneva, fills every step, no matter how banal, with meaning. She thinks Onegin is offering her his hand; instead, he shoots his cuff and she is left, her own hand outstretched, adrift; it is a little masterpiece of a moment, created by Vishneva out of nothing. Her pas de deux with her husband (a splendid Gennadi Saveliev) is a rare thing in dance, an expression of mature, contented love. Elsewhere, Vishneva is well matched by Natalia Osipova, her opposite physically as well as emotionally. As Vishneva is built on tragedy-queen lines, all gaunt, broken wrists and sadly drooping head, so perky little Osipova, with her chubby, rounded arms, is all girlish charm and bounce. The two together are the cast of dreams.