Life & Culture

Dance review: Solstice

A compilation of classics is a tonic after months of no live performances


Post-lockdown ballet performances mean we are not likely to see many three-act ballets with their complicated sets and large casts very soon. Instead, companies are seizing the opportunity to present excerpts from popular classics or small one-act works.

English National Ballet’s short season at the Royal Festival Hall is called Solstice, and features well-loved favourites along with less familiar new pieces. The performance begins with an abbreviated version of the third act of Coppelia. Taken out of the context of the full ballet, and without the usual town square setting, it is somewhat lacking in emotion, despite the excellence of the dancing. The famous Dance of the Hours is particularly pretty, with the corps on top form, and the music, by Delibes, is some of the loveliest written for ballet.

Other offerings include the pas de trois from Le Corsaire (more frequently performed at galas as a pas de deux), with Daniel McCormick in spectacular form, and the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. Taken out of the entire ballet, it loses much of its drama and becomes just an exercise in virtuoso dancing, but nevertheless, it is thrilling to watch. Erina Takahashi and Joseph Caley pull out all the stops and it would be good to see them dance the complete work.

That other popular Tchaikovsky classic, The Sleeping Beauty, also makes an appearance with the Jewels pas de quatre taken from the last act. It sparkles in every sense of the word: the costumes are glorious and the dancing crisp and precise.

The modern pieces work just as well, with Akram Khan’s Dust particularly moving. The performance finishes with William Forsythe’s Playlist, an exuberant all-male ensemble which showcases the immaculate timing of the company and sheer joyful nature of dance. What a tonic – both for the audience and the dancers – after months away from the stage.


The English National Ballet is at the Royal Festival Hall until 26 June.

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