Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: The Two Pigeons

Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: The Two Pigeons

Article excerpt

The Two Pigeons

Royal Opera House, in rep until 5December

Conceal/Reveal

Sadler's Wells

For all the billing and cooing on public forums about the Royal Ballet's The Two Pigeons revival, there's a silent majority out there who daren't speak for fear of the Twitter ordure that would fall on them. The box office and the empty seats attest to them. You'll have not the smallest difficulty in booking coachloads in for any of the 11 performances remaining as I write.

The curious thing is that the revival of this ballet some 30 years after it last fluttered in Covent Garden came about because of overwhelming public demand, says the Royal Ballet's artistic director Kevin O'Hare. It remains obscure how this public demand was assessed, but it seems to be the new thing in Floral Street, as the ROH is inviting more suggestions from 'the public' for ballets he should programme.

There's a lot that's interesting about this. First, O'Hare is giving himself the Valmont defence: if 'the public' programmes the repertoire -- that's the public who pay the taxes that provide subsidy to the Royal Ballet -- and the programmes bomb, it's beyond his control. That's referendums for you. On the other hand, he's making no promises, so it's one of those teasingly pointless 'dialogues'.

Second, it ascribes to the tiny band of social-media botherers an authority to cast block votes for 'the public', on the assumption, I imagine, that it is where 'the young audience' expresses itself. Yet this exercise more certainly demonstrates that the Royal Ballet's social-media respondents include some of the most trenchant Middle Englanders of the ballet crowd, the most grimly set in their convictions that 50 years ago we never had it so good in ballet and The Two Pigeons represents all that is great about British art.

This noise shouldn't distract from the one question that matters, The Two Pigeons ' artistic value. Which in my view is negligible. At least, as it is danced by today's Royal Ballet dancers, who are brisk modern creatures with very little fantasy in their sensible heads. Twee and fake are qualities that can be beguiling in ballet, but only if handled with consummate accomplishment, technical wit and a full heart.

But The Two Pigeons is twee and fake to excess. …

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