16 JUNE 1955, Page 19

BALLET

JOHN CRANKO'S new version of The Lady and the Fool at Covent Garden (the original was given at Sadler's Wells last year) is a thor- oughly competent assembly of so many dance- steps and so many music-phrases which omits no detail in telling a story which probably originated in some long-forgotten Victorian novelette. A lady of the haul nzinde picks up two shabby clowns• while en route to a ball; she introduces them to the world of luxury and, in the course of the evening's social en- counters, rejects all the regal, handsome or merely titled suitors in favour of (how did you guess?) one of the clowns. This is Number One clown, who is tall; Number Two is small and therefore both a foil for his mate and for the love scenes between the Lady and the Fool.

Like so many new ballets this is of the curate's egg variety; Mr. Cranko's choreo- graphic style is firmly based on a good under- standing of both the principles and the minutia of classical ballet, but, as often before, he smothers his good ideas in a restless welter of fussy dances, clumsy chorus manoeuvres and an opulent, because unstylised, system.of mime and gesture. The memorable moments have to he carefully watched for, and, after, dissected out from the general restlessness of the spec- tacle. in earlier ballets Mr. Cranko has shown that his imaginings far outrun his inventive- ness; it could be his artistic salvation to com- pose a series of ballets, each using not more than six dancers. Beryl Grey, Philip Chatfield and Ray Powell, the principals, did all pos- sible with fairly difficult material; Charles Mackerras neatly welded together an enter- taining mixture of excerpts from several Verdi operas, which he conducted with maximum effect.

Shrimati Shanta Rao is a female exponent of several of the lutually independent classic dance styles of India, and has appeared in a number of select recitals recently here. In either Bharata Natyam, Kathakali, or the more rare Mohini Attam mode she dances with an obviously fluent and seemingly effort- less technical command, accompanied by three Indian instrumentalists and a singer. Without a deep knowledge of the arts, religions and philosophic attitudes of India no Westerner can pretend to a deep appreciation of this dancing—which grew up (as did European dance) out of many kinds of religious. cere- monial. One is impressed by the sheer dance skill, not at all touched 'emotionally by what- ever is the alleged content of the dances. She has been compared—unfairly and misleadingly to both—to Fonteyn; her performance last Friday at the French Institute, stupefying in its near-monotony of pattern, and little vatic- gated in its mime and gestural effects, was an assault on the audience's capacity either to relax or resist. The vigour of the motions, the outbursts of singing from the dancer herself, the sudden flashed smiles, erased any com- parison (if such were ever possible) with the restrained power of a Fonteyn—and set one guessing that Madame Rao was making a bid to be recognised as the Danny Kaye of Indian dancing.

A. V. COTON