Physically, Polunin could not be more ideal for the role. With his wide poet’s forehead, slender build and black velvet gaze he’s not only the most handsome man Giselle has ever seen, he’s a pin-up boy for the whole idea of romantic love. So pretty is he that there’s a danger of the performance veering into narcissism, but Polunin is learning fast how to work his face as an expressive tool…
…But it’s his dancing that hypnotises. Polunin’s calling card is his jump: the height of it, and clarity of the shapes he can hold. When he comes to perform the multiple entrechats that are Albrecht’s signature move, there is a collective intake of breath as Polunin soars upwards on a whistle of displaced air, his ankles beating with a silvery sweetness, his body showing no signs of strain.
So much for the new stars, but Mark Monahan in The Telegraph reminds us that the older guard can still hold their own:
Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta have a combined age of about 75, which, in dancer years, puts this partnership somewhere around late-middle-age… this is beginning to show a little: Acosta has to work harder to take to the air, and no longer makes time stand still once he’s there; Rojo’s back doesn’t have quite the pliability it used to in attitude or arabesque, and her jumps – admittedly her one traditional weakness – often lack bite. (Giselle’s three enchanting “bunny-hops” in Act 2 passed almost unnoticed.)
In the main, however… Giselle sees them make a spiffing case for the combined virtues of talent, charisma and experience. Their physical gifts have always been matched by an artistry that is showing no sign of waning, besides which they’re both (she especially) blessed with youthful faces and are still dancing very well indeed. Supreme embodiments of balletic masculinity and femininity, they also continue to complement each other perfectly.
Gary Avis is a Hilarion sincere, anguished, doomed, and speaking to us at every moment of the drama’s truths. These words cannot, alas, apply to Carlos Acosta as Albrecht, a role he dances with his customary technical panache and impersonates as if it were a laundry list.
But remains enchanted by Rojo:
For Tamara Rojo’s Giselle much praise – for her dulcet account of the dances, for her dramatic intelligence and the sudden intensities of her mad scene, for small prodigies of balance and grand effects of phrasing, and a gentle bravura that does not corrupt the character. Here is a thoughtful, touching reading.
Sergei Polunin in The Sleeping Beauty; Photograph : Johan Persson/ROH