Skaters, Mice, Pigs and a Hedgehog at the ballet

Though many popular ballets have been filmed, it's unusual for the process to go the other way. In 1971 the Royal Ballet starred in a dance film of The Tales of Beatrix Potter, choreographed by Frederick Ashton to music compiled by John Lanchberry from forgotten Victorian musicals and operettas. Potter's most popular characters - Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle the hedgehog, Jemima Puddleduck, Peter Rabbit and various pigs and mice - were represented by dancers in large full-head masks and clever costumes, and the film was very popular at the time, though more rarely seen now.

In 1992 Anthony Dowell adapted the choreography for a stage version, revived in the current Royal Ballet season at Covent Garden and performed yesterday evening. I haven't seen the film since 1980, but from memory I felt that the ballet worked better on stage than in the original, where the masks and costumes seemed a bit wooden despite the fine dancing. On stage the illusion works better and the characterisation seems less artificial. The sets make the scale of the animals convincing (even though in the final scene there are pigs and mice dancing together, but who cares?) and creates the Edwardian world of Potter's imagination. Superbly danced all round, with very considerable wit and charm - some of the audience were audibly going 'Ah' at various points, particularly the little mice, danced by children from the Royal Ballet School.

As to skaters, the evening opened with Les Patineurs (The Skaters), always a popular choice (and being performed by the Royal Ballet for the 322nd time at the Royal Opera House): Ashton's clever choreography and Constant Lambert's arrangement of tunes by Meyerbeer make for an engaging 25 minutes.

Posted: Wed - January 9, 2008 at 09:19 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM