Ballet News Reviews | English National Ballet’s Swan Lake in the round
English National Ballet
Royal Albert Hall
12th June 2013
An arena production such as this one can never deliver the intimacy and story-telling that you get in a traditional theatre, but that’s not to say that it is without merit. It’s a spectacle. 60 swans instead of 16; twice as many cygnets and dancing in every corner of the arena. Actually, it’s the sheer quantity of dancing that saves this Swan Lake. Because there is an audience just a whisker away from the action, there is nowhere for the dancers to hide (or rest) and they have to enter and exit through the auditorium. This makes it hard on the dancers – firstly because the stage is vast and secondly because there is no ‘back’. They are on show the whole time.
Having seen this production many times, what you’re looking for is a stellar performance from the massed ranks of swans (tick) and something that lifts it out of the ordinary from the principal dancers (tick, eventually). Tamara Rojo invited Dutch National Ballet principal Matthew Golding to dance with her on opening night. When she danced Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty she was so nervous you could see the tension crackling before your eyes and it was difficult to watch. It did take a while for the partnership to gel, right up until Act 111, but when it did, my goodness, it really did. Golding brought out the best in Rojo, who looked without a care in the world. They both fired off each other and produced some spectacular dancing – 32 fouettes and all. The audience responded wildly because their joy had transferred to everyone watching.
Golding is tall and strong – a great partner and just as mesmerizing in the difficult adagio solos (you try sitting for ten minutes on stage and then launch into your solo with no warm up) where his extensions were high and clear. The moment when he returns to the lake, repentant, and drops to his knees in front of Odette, is a moment to cherish, and Rojo responded with tenderness and forgiveness that was truly moving. So too was her rousing of the corps once Rothbart had been vanquished (excellently played by James Streeter).
There was some lovely dancing in the pas de douze, especially from Ksenia Ovsyanick, Senri Kou, Adela Ramirez and Nancy Osbaldeston, and this production wields acrobats, jugglers and children. The crucial cygnets did what they are supposed to do, with excellent dancing from Senri Kou, Shiori Kase, Anjuli Hudson and Crystal Costa – though every cygnet was excellent. Some of the best dancing came from the 8 Princesses, from which the Prince is supposed to be choosing a wife, including Kerry Birkett, Alison McWhinney and Laurretta Summerscales (who will have her Odette/Odile moment next week).
The corps of swans were magnificent. Drilled to perfection out at 3 Mills film studio (the only place large enough) they supported the action beautifully. 60 swans is quite a selling point and the effect of the misty lake and dazzling white tutus is not to be missed.
You can’t help but miss the important mime sequences, and the ending is far from traditional, but the company danced with conviction and the audience had a great time.
Swan Lake is currently in rep at The Royal Albert Hall