Concerto, Le Baiser de la fée, Elite Syncopations (5 stars)

Concerto, Le Baiser de la fée, Elite Syncopations

Scottish Ballet's Bethany Kingsley-Garner, Andrew Peasgood and Constance Devernay in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's The Fairy's Kiss / credit: Andy Ross

Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration gets off to a flying start with three diverse works

Walking in off the street, with no prior knowledge, it would be easy to think this triple-bill was choreographed by three very different people. Such was the talent and vision of Kenneth MacMillan, and complexity of his mind. Created within 14 years of each other, Concerto, Le Baiser de la fée and Elite Syncopations have been cut from vastly different cloths – and each of the companies responsible for wearing them, rose to the challenge.

First up came Birmingham Royal Ballet with MacMillan's 1966 piece, Concerto. Originally made during his directorship at Deutsche Oper Ballet, this extraordinary work – danced with absolute skill and precision – has a very European feel; while the leotard-style tunics and high, clean choreographic lines are pure Balanchine. Put a combination like that together with Shostakovich's beautiful Piano Concerto No. 2, and you have the audience in the palm of your hands.

There are stories to be told in Concerto, but with abstract subtlety. Which meant MacMillan's 1960 work, Le Baiser de la fée arrived with something entirely different to offer. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale, The Ice Maiden and set to one of Stravinsky's more traditional scores, it's a work of pure narrative drama that called upon Scottish Ballet to deliver all the emotion and torment that MacMillan demanded from it.

Andrew Peasgood as the bewildered young man torn between two competing loves looked truly harrowed by his dilemma. But showed, too, his physical prowess in the leaps and lifts that kept manipulative fairy Constance Devernay and love-struck fiancée Bethany Kingsley-Garner afloat.

Scottish Ballet's storytelling ability was also put to the test in the night's closer – the endlessly entertaining, Elite Syncopations. Performed largely by the Royal Ballet, who looked as at home in this work as to be expected, a short but hilarious duet by Scottish Ballet's Marge Hendrick and Constant Vigier almost stole the show.

Almost, but not quite, because Elite Syncopations gives everyone a chance to shine, from the musicians on the elevated stage, breathing pure joy into Scott Joplin's ragtime melodies, to the dancers on stage – a mass, cross-company affair which also included representatives from Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Northern Ballet.

Ian Spurling's incredible costume design sparked their own round of applause before a single step was taken, and this witty, jazzy, sassy jewel of a piece set the whole theatre aglow.

Reviewed at The Royal Opera House, London.

Concerto/Le Baiser De La Fee/Elite Syncopations

Dancers from the UK’s five leading ballet companies perform two of MacMillan’s sunniest works alongside a new production of his dark, classical fairytale. Birmingham Royal Ballet performs Concerto, Scottish Ballet performs Le Baiser de la fée and Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, The…

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