Les Patineurs and Tales of Beatrix Potter, Royal Ballet, December 2009

These two delightful ballets by Frederick Ashton are a joy to watch. He was a choreographer with a sense of humour, and his inventiveness is well revealed in both works. This is a revival of the double bill from last year, and performed by very similar casts.

Les Patineurs is to music by Meyerbeer, arranged by Constant Lambert, and Ashton’s choreography gives a wonderful impression of ice-skating. Steven McRae danced the boy in blue, giving him a very boyish feel, and the elegant couple in white was stylishly portrayed by Rupert Pennefather with Sarah Lamb. The soloists in dark blue dresses were Yuhui Choe and Laura Morera, making a fine pas-de-trois with McRae, and Yuhui Choe was spectacular on her own. McRae’s fouttés were wonderfully done, and Paul Murphy in the orchestra pit kept the music going at a good smooth pace.

In Tales of Beatrix Potter, with its uplifting music by John Lanchbery, we had a range of excellent dancers, their faces of course invisible behind the masks. Jonathan Howells was a charming Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, the same as last year, and Gary Avis was once again an excellent Fox, this time with Samantha Raine as Jemima Puddle Duck. Bennet Gartside and Laura Morera again danced beautifully as the loving couple Pigling Bland and Pig-Wig. Johannes Stepanek was Peter Rabbit, and Ricardo Cervera repeated his role of Johnny Town-Mouse, but this time with Bethany Keating as Mrs. Tittle-Mouse — both were suitably stylish. The naughty mice, Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb were amusingly performed by Iohna Loots, who did the same role last year, and Ludovic Ondiviela. The male solos for Jeremy Fisher and Squirrel Nutkin were danced by Kenta Kura and Paul Kay. It’s impossible to compete with McRae’s provocative Nutkin from last year, and I’m afraid I thought Kenta Kura was off the music as Jeremy Fisher, but the little mice, danced by junior associates of the Royal Ballet School, were utterly superb. This is presumably their star role for the year, and no matter whether or not they go on to join the company they can all be immensely proud of their performances. What a joy it was to watch them!

Nothing can compare to John Lanchbery conducting his own music to this ballet, but Paul Murphy did well, and the designs by Christine Edzard and masks by Rostislav Doboujinsky continue to charm.

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