Image courtesy of Queensland Ballet

Sacred Cow

Are story ballets naff? asks Jill Brown

I love dance, but many a time I’ve found myself silently sighing during the traditional story ballets – all those relentless variations to politely applaud. Whether it’s the shiny pink-and-whiteness, the tiaras, the too-bright smiles, the evil magicians, the cheery villagers . . . there’s something naff about ballet.

I blame Tchaikovsky. His music is so sublime it’s easy to be seduced into thinking that each production of The Nutcracker, Swan Lakeor The Sleeping Beautyis high art. But the movement in these works by the choreographer Marius Petipa – academic, formal, prim – is infuriatingly inadequate to the depth of feeling in the soaring music. This is because his aesthetic is one that values...