Magazine article The Spectator

Steps in Time

Magazine article The Spectator

Steps in Time

Article excerpt

Cinderella

English National Ballet's 60th birthday

London Coliseum

The post-second world war decade saw a flourishing of independent ballet companies all over Europe. Those that strove to emulate the Ballets Russes provided an alternative to the companies that aimed at nurturing home-grown talent - such as the Ballet Rambert and what became the Royal Ballet in the UK. It was in this context that English National Ballet (formerly Festival Ballet, London's Festival Ballet and London Festival Ballet) held its first performance 60 years ago last Saturday. A significant anniversary indeed, particularly because none of the other independent European companies created around the same time has managed to survive so long.

It is difficult to pinpoint the factors that contributed to such successful longevity.

Some say it's down to the appeal of the various international stars who worked with the company - from founders Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, to Galina Samsova, Rudolf Nureyev, Eva Evdokimova, Peter Schaufuss and a thousand other equally great ones.

Others claim that a major attraction has always been the company's 'alternative' repertoire, which encompassed titles rarely seen elsewhere in the country. After all, London Festival Ballet was one of the companies that kept most of the Diaghilev repertoire alive, as well as popularising works that had long remained exclusive to national cultures - as in the case of the Romantic ballet La Sylphide , the Western popularity of which grew significantly after the staging by the company's former director Peter Schaufuss.

Finally, others regard the extensive touring that the company embarks on every season as the winning factor - for they truly bring ballet to almost everyone.

Whatever the reason, ENB, as it is known to most balletomanes, remains, under the winning directorship of Wayne Eagling, a company that, after 60 years, still stands out for its alluring and captivating freshness.

On Saturday, the scheduled performance of Cinderella was preceded by a brief and funny speech by managing director Craig Hassall, and by an unsurprising but good orchestral rendition of the birthday song, complete with audience participation. To some, Prokofiev's Cinderella might sound an odd choice for a summer celebration, given that theatrical adaptations of the old fairy tale are traditionally associated with Christmas holidays. …

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