Swan Lake is perhaps the most renowned classical ballet repertoire still routinely performed. Recent productions such as Matthew Bourne’s reimagined all male production or even the twisted representation on screen in Black Swan have only increased its popularity.
The English National Ballet have kept tradition and modern ballet alive with Derek Deane’s production of Swan Lake. Originally performed in-the-round at the Royal Albert Hall in 1997 and then restaged for conventional theatres, it has proven a hit for the ENB over the years.
This ninth production is performed in the glorious London Coliseum. English ballet, whilst perhaps not quite as ultra-refined as its Russian counterpart, when done well is a wonderful spectacle. This performance had it all; lavish costume, impressive scenery, strong performances from the corps de ballet and barely a wobble onstage.
It was refreshing to see traditional ballet done well, with a few twists here and there. In this production, Tchaikovsky’s wonderfully written score was beautifully conducted by Gavin Sutherland.
During the prologue, showing Rothbart first transforming Odette into a swan. A lovely piece of stage magic was used during the “transformation”, with the change to swan, Odette was instantaneously revealed from behind Rothbart’s cape.
A standout of the night was “The dance of the little swans” (cygnets); the well-loved and incredibly difficult pas-de-quatre. The four ballerinas were completely in sync for the whole section; a rarity, with fantastic technique which gained large well-deserved applause.
Overall the company performed well; the swans section in Act II always a delight with a good corps de ballet. A standout performer of the ensemble was Precious Adams, not forgetting Daniel McCormick’s impressive leaps and Julia Conway’s impressive pointe work of the pas de trois in Act I.
Both the character parts, Queen (Jane Hayworth) and tutor (Michael Coleman), were well played. Providing laughter and storytelling. Rothbart (James Streeter), the villain of the piece, is always a difficult role and in this production the characterisation improved through the ballet.
Isaac Hernández reprised his role as Prince Siegfried, before as a guest artist, now a company member of the ENB. Whilst appearing a little off balance at the start of the ballet and lacking in characterisation, he really came into his own during the later acts, especially with an impressive solo performance in Act III, with wonderful flying grand jetés and beautiful pirouettes.
Odette and Odile are traditionally played by the same dancer. Jurgita Dronina portrayed a vulnerable Odette, whilst mastering the flirtatious nature of Odile. The change in character was noticeable as soon as she stepped on stage in Act III, she seems to convey both characters through her upper body gestures and face with ease. Her technique is delightful, mastering the somewhat incredible 32 fouettés in Odile’s solo of Act III.
The chemistry and partner work between Hernández and Dronina, whilst lacking in places at the start, grew throughout, successfully conveying the tragic ending of Swan Lake.
Whilst not quite a Moscow performance, certainly a fantastic English ballet. Overall, a delightful performance.