Magazine article The Spectator

Diaghilev Still Dazzles

Magazine article The Spectator

Diaghilev Still Dazzles

Article excerpt

Ballets Russes

Music English National Ballet, Sadler's Wells

I think Diaghilev would have been thrilled to attend the opening night of English National Ballet's centenary celebrations of his Ballets Russes. Not unlike his famously orchestrated 1909 dress rehearsal at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris, ENB's performance was attended by a glamorous array of stars, celebrities and former glories, complete with paparazzi at the entrance.

Luckily, the buzz was not just on one side of the curtain, as the first of the two Ballets Russes celebration programmes was also glamorous and generally well performed. Thanks to an intelligent approach, none of the 'old' items reeked of mothballs; not even the hypercamp, though enjoyable, Scheherazade, which concluded the evening on a fizzy note with its pseudo-orientalist overtones, tamed eroticism and flashy pyrotechnics.

The modernist take on Diaghilev's repertoire became evident as soon as the curtain went up on Apollo, presented here in Balanchine's own 'edited' 1970s revisitation of the 1928 original Apollon Musagete.

Thomas Edur, Agnes Oaks, Erina Takahashi and Daria Klimentova danced perfectly and with impeccable stylistic accuracy - even though the adopted tempi were often drearily slow. Indeed, stylistic accuracy was also the dominant factor in Scheherazade and in Les Sylphides, the opening piece of the second programme. It was refreshing to see the latter performed with such attention to detail.

The only item that suffered greatly from lack of accuracy was, alas, Le Spectre de la Rose. At the core of this 1911 duet is the androgyny of the eponymous character, the spirit of a rose - something Nijinsky and some of his successors brought magically to life. Alas, these days the character's androgyny is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. …

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