Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov in <i>The Nutcracker</i> © Marc Haegeman
Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov in The Nutcracker
© Marc Haegeman
The annual Russian Ballet Icons Gala is a celebration of the best of Russian ballet, with internationally-renowned dancers performing a diverse array of solos and duets – both new and old – associated with the country. Whilst the relevance of some of the works in this year’s programme wasn’t clear, the quality of performance was extremely high, with far too many highlights to name.

Royal Ballet dancers Roberta Marquez and Federico Bonelli gave a charming interpretation of the balcony pas de deux, from Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. In spite of the lack of balcony onstage, the pair appeared utterly smitten, grinning at each other and passionately embracing in a beautiful representation of the characters’ youthfulness and ardour.

English National Ballet dancer Alina Cojocaru and real-life partner Johan Kobborg (currently director of the Romanian National Ballet) gave a superb performance of another one of MacMillan’s illustrious pas de deux – the suicide scene from Mayerling. Including drug-taking and ending in double death, the piece’s dramatic take wasn’t in keeping with the otherwise upbeat nature of the gala and would no doubt have been difficult to follow for audience members unfamiliar with the full ballet. Nevertheless, Kobborg captured the mentally disturbed essence of his character whilst Cojocaru gave an impassioned interpretation of hers. The pair was expertly supported by a hat-twirling Alexander Campbell.

Olesya Novikova and Kimin Kim in <i>Don Quixote</i> © Marc Haegeman
Olesya Novikova and Kimin Kim in Don Quixote
© Marc Haegeman
Performing Grand Pas Classique, Berlin State Ballet dancers Iana Salenko and Marian Walter excelled in Victor Gsovsky’s technically-difficult steps. Walter’s solo featured powerful travelling jumps and multiple pirouettes, whilst Salenko effortlessly repeated a tricky rise onto pointe on one leg without even a hint of a wobble. In the sparkling pas de deux from The Nutcracker former English National Ballet dancer Daria Klimentova and Royal Ballet dancer Vadim Muntagirov performed immaculately to Tchaikovsky’s sublime score. Mariinsky Ballet dancers Olesya Novikova and Kimin Kim also gave a thoroughly sparkling performance of the Don Quixote Grand Pas, complete with huge jumps, rapid spins and sudden balances.

At the more contemporary end of the spectrum, Ballet de l’Opera national de Paris dancers Dorothée Gilbert and Audric Bezard gave a secure performance of Benjamin Millipied’s acrobatic Amoveo, including Bezard swinging Gillbert with one arm and later holding her by the hips above his head parallel to the floor. Royal Ballet dancers Natalia Osipova and Edward Watson gave an equally effortless performance of Alistair Marriot’s athletic Connectome.

The Mariinsky Ballet’s Xander Parish performed Ballet 101 with style, replicating the 101 positions of Eric Gauthier’s humorous choreography with such precision and timing as to bring a huge smile to my face. Other works performed included extracts of Scheherazade, Sleeping Beauty, MacMillan’s Winter Dreams, Christopher Wheleldon’s Cinderella and Imre Eck’s The Swan of Tuonela, with the English National Ballet Philharmonic providing excellent accompaniment under the baton of Valery Ovsyanikov.

Dorothée Gilbert and Audric Bezard in <i>Amoveo</i> © Marc Haegeman
Dorothée Gilbert and Audric Bezard in Amoveo
© Marc Haegeman
With some of the best dancers from the world’s highest-ranking companies performing, the Russian Ballet Icons Gala is synonymous with top-quality classical dance. In many ways, the Russian title isn’t needed – the gala is simply a brilliant showcase of brilliant ballet. It celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, so here’s to another ten years of excellence.