Scottish Ballet: Stravinsky

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

five stars

Touring success in America, high-profile awards and nominations - artistic director Christopher Hampson’s short progress report preceded a double bill that confirmed Scottish Ballet’s status as a forward-looking company with strengths nonetheless grounded in the classics. His own response to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring confirms this: a searingly intense study of two brothers driven asunder by beliefs that make the elder (Christopher Harrison) into a brutish aggressor with the younger (Constant Vigier) falling victim to juggernaut-idealogy. The choreography between them is unrelentingly physical, Vigier constantly bounced off the curving walls of the gladiatorial enclosure by Harrison’s relentless attack while Sophie Martin is both observer and catalyst as Faith/Death - her pointe-work poised, incisive and her whole being speaking of something compelling, yet unattainable.

Before the interval, Constance Devernay glinted and shone with glacial, enigmatic charm in the late Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s The Fairy Kiss (1960), re-designed and revived by Scottish Ballet to mark the 25th anniversary of his death. At times MacMillan’s version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ice Maiden swithers between classic tradition and radical invention: the peasant gatherings that attend the Young Man’s imminent wedding echo similar festivities in Giselle or Coppelia - ah, but then, the pas-de-deux soar into the bravura dynamics that became a hallmark of his later work. Andrew Peasgood (the Young Man) and Bethany Kingsley-Garner (his Fiancee) are in the arms - and lifts - of sweetly naive bliss until the Fairy (Devernay) claims the lad with a fatal kiss. Devernay’s limbs lick round him with a possessive, predatory embrace and the handsomely athletic Peasgood is hers to command, pouring immaculate control into challengingly complex partnering where lifts and holds are tinged with acrobatic brinkmanship. Can ice sizzle? It does here!