English National Ballet
Wednesday, 23rd March 2011
English National Ballet’s Swan Lake choreographed by Derek Deane (the ninth Swan Lake mounted by the company) begins with a Prologue telling the story of Princess Odette, who is kidnapped by Rothbart (half-man, half-bird) who turns her into a swan. This might help to explain the reason behind Odette’s sorrowful lakeside entrance for newcomers to the ballet, and if the current trend is any indication, there will have been plenty in need of the introduction tonight. The lady next to me was almost drowning in tears, just half-way through.
We first meet Princess Odette, Daria Klimentová, dancing as she holds a rose, kneeling down, suddenly disturbed by the arrival of Rothbart in a cloud of smoke with his great flapping lumps of seaweed encircling her. By a trick of the light, a swan appears, thereby sealing her fate.
Meanwhile, a birthday party is underway for Prince Siegfried, with plenty of dancing. Vadim Muntagirov, as Prince Siegfried, joins the entertainment as various dancers waltz and decorate the palace with flowers. Junor Souza has high, neat clean feet and before you know it the Pas de Quatre is underway. Laurretta Summerscales was strong, well partnered by Max Westwell and together with Begoña Cao & James Forbat they powered their way through symmetrical turns and jumps. Do these steps belong in Swan Lake ? No. Do the dancers look like they’re enjoying them ? Again, no. But they do give it their all.
It is lovely to see Kei Akahoshi beaming out from the front of the stage, and her delightful, delicately nuanced dancing could be clearly seen.
Vadim begins his adagio solo full of longing, stretching out every sinew of muscle and music in superbly controlled arabesques, feet gracefully sweeping the floor. My seat neighbour really had the taps on full flow watching Muntagirov thoughtfully co-ordinate every move with meaning; lost in time.
Rothbart opens Act 11 in another cloud of ice and mischief, sending Prince Siegfried and Odette into whirls, as he spots her and is captivated. Rothbart commands every swan to the lakeside and the full corps de ballet arrive en masse.
Daria Klimentová knows Odette and her flashier half Odile inside out, but she brings a fresh, even more sorrowful reading each time. I think she has more fun with Odile, smiling more, taking in the situation and her advantage. With Muntagirov’s partnering improving all the time, particularly in the lifts, their pas de deux are rooted in a languorous desire wrapped in fear. Once Siegfried has promised not to shoot her with his birthday present (a crossbow) and declared undying love for her, there is only one way this is ever going to end.
The Cygnets, Kei Akahoshi, Désirée Ballantyne, Senri Kou and Anjuli Hudson danced the famous steps perfectly in time with each other and the music. Senri Kou has an impish, ethereal elegance and serenity that suits the role perfectly and she’s a joy to watch in anything.
Act 111 sees us back in the Palace where the formal celebrations for Siegfried’s birthday are taking place. Guests arrive, including six princesses whom his mother has invited as a none too subtle hint that it’s time to wed. Muntagirov is polite but aloof, spending his time dancing with the girls when he has to or hovering around the edges of his own party.
For those of you who’ve been asking about Daniel Jones (last seen on BBC Four’s documentary about English National Ballet called Agony & Ecstasy : A year With English National Ballet, very much at the agony end of the spectrum with a hernia), well, see for youself !
Jones looked over the moon & back again to be on stage; he’s a great actor and you need to act your way out of those heavy costumes and boots. Smiling from ear to ear he made light work of the partnering (Tamarin Stott, who was excellent) and the jumps; trousers and everything else flying with him. His joy was utterly infectious and even my seat neighbour stopped crying and cautiously attempted to beam back at him.
Yat-Sen Chang and Crystal Costa know how to work the crowd in the Neapolitan Dance, and even the tambourines behaved (well caught by Jones who then proceeded to tap away in graceful time to the music, long extensions and tapered fingers all the way through). Heaven.
Laura Bruña & Laurent Liotardo stole the limelight temporarily in the Spanish Dance, enthusiastically drawing every beat from the score.
Daria Klimentová returns as Odile, Rothbart’s daughter who is disguised as Odette. Both Klimentová and Muntagirov excel at letting go and racing through the arabesques and jetes at breakneck speed; Klimentova’s 32 fouettes were quite possibly taken without breath.
Once Siegfried has been tricked into believeing that Odile is his true love, we find Odette in Act 1V back at the lakeside in despair. Plunging among the swans to find Odette, Muntagirov has mastered dropping to his knees and almost quivering with remorse, with the effect that Odette forgives him his betrayal. Despite fighting with Rothbart, Odette decides that she cannot continue. Klimentová dances with fragility here, slipping gently & unfolding from Muntagirov’s embrace, collapsing to the floor, hands over feet. She throws herself into the lake, followed by Siegfried. As the swan maidens gather and group towards a new dawn on the horizon, the pair are reunited in eternal love.
Swan Lake is in rep at the London Coliseum until 26th March 2011.