Swan Lake, first performed in the 19th century in Russia, remains a true favourite of ballet companies and audiences alike. We love the beauty of lines and lines of swans drifting effortlessly across the stage; we love the Odette/Odile contrast; we love Tchaikovsky’s brilliant score. The English National Ballet’s performance last night succeeded in living up to our expectations with their classical reproduction of the original ballet. Derek Deane’s additional choreography compliments Petipa and Ivanov’s timeless creation; this production stays true to the traditions of Swan Lake , thereby keeping all the purists happy – however, it adds and adapts in ways that enhance the story and the romance of the ballet.
The English National Ballet are very lucky to have the beautiful Alina Cojocaru amongst their ranks. Her performance last night was breath-taking with complete mastery of the movement between the lovely Odette and the sophisticated Odile. She dances the famous pas de deux with Prince Siegfried (Ivan Vasiliev)in Act II with seamless grace, each extension, each pause and breath, a moment of exquisite beauty. While her 32 fouettés in Act III are not the most confident that have ever been performed, the rest of the virtuoso sections of the ballet are executed with utter precision. Ivan Vasiliev, a guest artist performing as Prince Siegfried for the first time, is an impressive dancer who moves with power and strength. His elevation is exceptional, each jump landing with perfect poise and precision. He is also an excellent actor and completely convincing in his role as the love struck prince – certainly a dancer to watch as he moves from company to company.
In many ways Swan Lake is reliant on an exceedingly well rehearsed corps de ballet in order for it to be a success. In this production they are excellent with near-perfect lines and carefully rehearsed choreography. At moments the swans give the illusion of floating across a lake with their strength and grace. There are some interesting adaptations to the choreography as well as effective staging including the use of billowing white clouds from which they can emerge and sink. In the court scenes there are many highly entertaining variations including a superb pas de trois in Act 1 in which Cesar Corrales performs with wonderful energy and enthusiasm. In Act III the princesses are poised and graceful (despite being put out to market) and the Spanish dance is a real highlight; Cao, Keesler, Bosch, and Westwell have dynamic energy and style in this stylish little number.
The villain of the ballet, Rothbart, is an exciting and fearsome presence that looms over the ballet. James Streeter is fantastic, never failing in his character roles to go beyond the usual rather stereotyped ballet characterisations. He opens the ballet with the inclusion of the Prologue in which he kidnaps Odette and turns her into a swan, enhancing the sense of story and of tragedy. The ENB Swan Lake is a gorgeous production that manages to maintain the essence of the classical traditions while elevating the passion and romance of this magical story.