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Scottish Ballet, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Scottish Ballet is heading States-side, taking the double bill they premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival to California and Minnesota.

Last week, part of that bill, Jorma Elo’s specially commissioned Kings 2 Ends, paired up with Ashley Page’s Pennies From Heaven, delivering a programme that highlighted how technically adept and artistically sussed these dancers are, and how fresh, distinctive and sparky the repertoire has become.

Now that the company has Elo’s choreography, set to music by Reich and Mozart, under its belt, the dancers can afford to enjoy the subversive quirks that he seeds into the demands of his classically attuned vocabulary. As with Page’s wittily nuanced response to the 1930s popular songs in Pennies from Heaven, there’s an element in Kings 2 Ends that needs a shrug of humour, a little shimmy of giggly naughtiness, a sudden sizzle of seeming abandon to counterpoint the serious purity of line and style elsewhere.

It’s not an easy option for dancers: carefree elan, or nippy turns of dazzling speed, are anchored in precision. But when, as in both works, dancers make the comedy look like second nature, or the soaring flights into a partner’s arms seem spontaneous ... well, you can feel the audience’s pleasure and satisfaction long before the final applause breaks into cheers. Both works, however, have profoundly thoughtful depths to them. Pennies in particular, with its costuming, cinematic back-projections and Page’s flair for sympathic period detail taking us all beyond pastiche nostalgia on a sincerely observed note of resilient optimism. America gets Kenneth MacMillan’s wonderful Song of the Earth with the Elo – I suspect it could do with the joie-de-vivre of Page’s Pennies.


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