Giselle, Peacock Theatre, London

Clement Crisp, Financial Times
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It looks more than a little like Gisellez-a-poppin’ as the dear things of the Trockadero troupe get their hands and feet on this sacred text of Romantic ballet at the start of their second programme.

Albrecht (the splendidly dim Prince Myshkin, aka Fernando Medina Gallego) is a tremulous hero, and the ranks of the wilis storm over the stage like Dracula’s daughters, Goths avant la lettre. So far so funny, and also so respectful of the text, in a Trockish sort of way, exemplified by the power of Minnie van Driver who brings more sense and more menace to the role of Myrtha than do most shall-we-say-usual interpreters.

But it is the Giselle of Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) that turns this romp on its head. Morra’s is an exceptional and, in truth, astonishingly moving performance. (In this it follows that earlier Trock assoluta, Margot Mundeyne – Yonny Manaure – whose Giselle I found vastly superior to those portrayals by dreary girls who were playing it for real with our ballet companies.) Morra resembles one of those great ballerinas of my youth who commanded our respect and admiration by force of personality and massive understanding of their roles. His technique in the vocabulary associated with female dancing is assured. (Delicate pas de bourrée, light jump.) His skill in shaping a pose, in those lovely oppositions of torso and limbs that give meaning to everything a ballerina does, his intensity of feeling (and his devastating skill in breaking the mood with an icy put-down to other dancers), are the mark of an exceptional artist. Bouquets to him for a reading that bridges two worlds: that of Giselle as a flower of romanticism too often betrayed by under-cast and under-educated danseuses, and that of brilliant travesty playing.

The rest of the programme is as jolly as you can wish: classical numbers from the old Imperial Russian repertoire have been dusted off, with choreography – though little else – respected, and there is an amusing Balanchine parody, which is no easy thing to cope with but is here done to a turn. And the sublime Ida Nevasayneva (bless her unabashed limbs), allows her swan to die in a snow-storm of moult. That, more than ever, she resembles an ancient ballerina of our time, is the happiest thing.