The final crop of ENB Nutcrackers featured some performances by Agnes Letestu and Jose Martinez - principals with Paris Opera Ballet and a great attraction for fans always keen to see new stars.
The only problem with Nutcracker is that there is little dance 'meat' for the Prince and Sugar Plum Fairy and therefore you see but a tantalising snatch of the possibilities. But we still have to go of course - just too foolish not to!
So with that proviso... Agnes Letestu left me in two wildly conflicting minds. She is stately, technically very accomplished with almost a clockwork perfection in getting to the right place at the right time. She also smiled much, posed prettily, but it all seemed a thin veneer on a performance with no emotional depth and in a role she would seem to have zero empathy with. I'd love to see her in some 20th century works where I suspect her chilly technique and detached manner might be more at home.
Jose Martinez, Letestu's regular partner I gather, looked much more comfortable and happy as the Prince. He is tall and quite fine in his build - most definitely not a chunky dancer. Again there was evidence of terrific technique and speed. He was also an attentive partner and despite the non-chunky look, managed all the lifts well - I promise I won't worry next time!
I've reviewed the ENB Nut a number of times so what more to say other than few random thoughts that came to mind. Chief of these was how well the orchestra played. It was also interesting to see the musicians actually looking at the conductor - not something you often see with the ROH orchestra (when playing for ballet anyway).
On the downside I definitely noticed much more of Drosselmeyer's less than healthy thoughts about Clara and which only detract. That's not to mention some previously unnoticed and rather unseemly sexual shenanigans involving Grandmother and the male guests. Again not really needed in a Christmas ballet for kids, though much of it might well be missed.
Special mention of Sarah Arnott for a great Teenage (Barbie) Doll and to Simone Clarke and Filipe Diaz (an announced replacement I think) in the Spanish Dance - they looked amazingly fired up. Agnes Oaks did the Ice Queen with stately aplomb and Tamara Rojo's Clara conveyed all the right emotions. She also looked even more sparkly in her dance with the Prince, as well she might - Martinez was enjoying it too.
Finally have to mention Yat Sen Chang - amazing attitude and power and quite the best 'Russian' dancer you will see in any Nutcracker. As usual the audience lapped it all up.