The Snow Maiden is an old Russian folk tale adapted as a play and an opera.

It only became a ballet in 1946 and struggles a little to reconcile the disparate elements of academic classicism, comical clowns, Cossack dances and ribboned maypoles but the overall effect is utterly charming.

Tchaikovsky’s score, like the ballet itself, is a patchwork of ideas and themes, lent from familiar symphonies or borrowed from folk tunes.

Dancers of Russian State Ballet beautifully inhabit sparkling tutus against stunning backcloths of snowflake stitchery or snowy dachas whilst folkloric motifs represent the melting warmth of the sun.

The principals are strong and capable, Georgiy Bolsnovskiy and Daniil Kostylev in particular, able to swirl their partners high into the air without missing a beat.

Mana Kuwabara shines as the Snow Maiden, her gestures dramatic and expressive, and never more than in the passionate Pas de Deux of Act Two. Rival Kupava matched her with stunning display of technique illustrating emotional depth - and despair – by Elena Pogorelaya.

The ballet achieves our involvement because the soloists are superb, the corps de ballet is exuberant, the music is Tchaikovsky and because traditional dance miming perfectly supports the simple story.

Four stars

*Russian State Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty today (Feb 16 2.30pm and 7.30pm) and Swan Lake tomorrow (Feb 17 2.30pm and 7.30pm). Tickets from £15.50, call 08448 717650.