Unforgettable ballet at Milton Keynes Theatre

Manon
Manon

Review by Hannah Richardson

Yet again, Milton Keynes Theatre hosts a ballet production of the highest order.

If you love ballet, try not to miss the English National Ballet’s production of Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon, on stage at MK Theate until tomorrow, Saturday, as part of only a three-venue tour before a short season at London’s Coliseum in January.

Apparently, this is only the second time in 30 years that ENB has presented this ballet outside of London.

Set in 18th-century Paris, Manon tells the story of a young woman faced with the choice between two lovers and the different lifestyles they represent – Des Grieux, the young student she loves, and Monsieur GM, played in this production by Fabian Reimar as an ageing dandy, who can shower her in all the trappings of luxury. Will she choose love, or riches?

As usual, the leading roles Manon and Les Grieux are taken by different dancers on different nights.

I feel lucky to have seen lead principal Jurgita Dronina’s performance on the opening night, as I can’t imagine anyone dancing Manon with more grace or characterisation.

Dance Europe has called the Russian-born dancer “not only graceful and delicate but a ballerina capable of technical wizardry”, and I can’t better that description.

The grace and accuracy of her dancing was breathtaking, her flexibility astounding and her storytelling outstanding.

She was partnered on Wednesday night by lead principal Isaac Hernandez, as a very handsome and convincing love interest, Des Grieux.

The chemistry and rapport between the two dancers in their romantic pas de deux was exceptional, eloquent and very moving.

The two principals were superbly supported by the Japanese soloist Ken Saruhshi, in the character role of Manon’s brother, Lescaut, who set the standard for the whole evening with his Act 1 performance featuring gravity-defying leaps.

Indeed, the entire troupe has to be congratulated on a performance of the highest quality, with literally never a dull moment.

Catch it if you can.

At the time of writing, Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernández are billed to return to the leading roles for the final performance tomorrow, Saturday, night.

Tonight, Friday, the leading roles are taken by Alison McWhinney and Francesco Gabriele Frola, and for Saturday’s matinee Alina Cojocaru and Joseph Caley do the honours.

Please note, casting is subject to change. Box office: atgtickets.com/MiltonKeynes or 0844 871 7652.