A PROGRAMME showcasing diverse forms of ballet can so often appear disjointed and lacking in cohesion.

Each selection becomes a self-contained essay, artistically isolated from what comes next… a concept album devoid of a central theme, Sergeant Pepper without his band.

So how do we provide the necessary linkage that can blend classical, abstract and character styles so effortlessly that we hardly realise it?

The answer is Elisha Willis. Although missing from the first piece, it was her arrival on stage that turned an already terrific night of dance into a tour de force.

For there is no doubt that it was mainly down to BRB favourite Willis that early into the second selection of this triple bill the audience’s level of expectation justifiably started to rise.

She is first encountered in Alexander Whitley’s hauntingly abstract Kin. This is a mood-laden piece that provides a perfect platform for her sensitive and sensuous interpretation of Phil Kline’s edgy, caught-on-barbed-wire score.

If freeform jazz maestro John Coltrane’s saxophone passages were capable of adopting human form, then they would probably be in Elisha Willis’s image, you can be certain of that.

She and Joseph Caley moved as one, their pas des deux bringing to mind a kind of exotic, constantly moving magical plant that dwells in some deepest jungle depths. This is obviously a style that suits her and she certainly made the most of Whitley’s choreography.

We next see her in Enigma Variations, Frederick Ashton’s noble salute to the music of Worcestershire’s celebrated composer Edward Elgar. She plays the role of Dora Penny (Dorabella) and it is fitting that the part is described as ‘an intimate portrait of a gay but pensive girl with an engaging hesitation in her speech.’ This perfectly suits Willis’s character, and she quite evidently enjoys herself as she glides and flits across the stage like some late-summer dragonfly quartering a mist-shrouded lake.

Earlier, we had witnessed the ultimate study in classical technique. Of course, there is no storyline contained within Theme and Variations for choreographer George Balanchine’s intention was purely to present a shop window of just what was possible in the world of ballet.

This was a case of Elisha Willis having to wait her turn, for the piece belonged without doubt to Momoko Hirata, who has quite obviously stepped into the pointe shoes of Nao Sakuma, currently off the scene because of the demands of motherhood.

Hirata is simply divine, a china doll so exquisitely formed that one gets the impression that the slightest tumble might break her into countless pieces. Thankfully though, she is partnered by the indomitable Joseph Caley, who makes sure this flawless artist comes to no harm.

Otherwise, watch out for William Bracewell, who impresses in both Theme and Variations and Kin. He appears to be a man with a mission and is most definitely one to watch.

This triple bill at the Birmingham Hippodrome moves on to Sadler’s Wells, London, and the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, later this month.

John Phillpott