‘As a first ballet, this could be life-changing’: SWAN LAKE – London Coliseum ★★★★

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London’s Coliseum – until 2 September 2018

There is undoubtedly a thrill in seeing a huge and highly professional ballet company perform one of the classic masterworks in one of the city’s most beautiful settings. If you have an impressionable young dancer in the family, as a first ballet this Swan Lake could be life-changing.

In St Petersburg’s Ballet’s short season at the Coliseum there’s also an opportunity to see a prima ballerina assoluta repeatedly give the sort of pained acknowledgement of the audience’s applause that makes Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan look like a pussycat.

Irina Kolesnikova is clearly a force to be reckoned with, both because she has been the mainstay of this company founded by her entrepreneur husband, for nearly 20 years – but also because Swan Lake is all about the line and the arms, and there are few ballerinas with such technique and control, and her precision is exemplary whether in the elegance of the pas de deux, or the ferocity of 32 consecutive fouettés.

The scenery and the costumes are either ‘classic’ or ‘old-fashioned’ depending on your viewpoint, but some of the Cossack tunics and bizarre head-dresses do seem to get in the way of the corps de ballet’s opportunity for expression, especially in the Czardas and Mazurkas of the third act, although the cygnets are genuinely swan-like and there are 24 of them.

As Siegfried, Bolshoi principal Denis Rodkin is every inch the languid, handsome prince – again technically excellent and his strength is impressive, but his perfectly bouncing hair should have its own credit in the programme and his performance is under-emotional: it’s hard to believe he is in love with Kolesnikova. There’s far more exuberance and engagement in Sergei Fedorkov’s wonderful and athletic Jester.

Nothing is stinted – it’s a huge cast, there are genuine international stars, and the 50-strong Orchestra of English National Opera gives Tchaikovsky’s endlessly rich score their very best.

If you’re hoping for a classic ‘Dying Swan’, though, prepare for disappointment – this version defies the trajectory of the music and has a happy ending.

until 2 September

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Johnny Fox
‘Johnny Fox’ studied Theatre at Lancaster University and Journalism at City before realising there was no money in either profession and concentrating instead on interior design for investment banks in Singapore, New York and Moscow. Back home, he now writes mostly about theatre, mostly in London, for arts and events websites. He blogs independently at www.johnnyfox.london.
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Johnny Fox
‘Johnny Fox’ studied Theatre at Lancaster University and Journalism at City before realising there was no money in either profession and concentrating instead on interior design for investment banks in Singapore, New York and Moscow. Back home, he now writes mostly about theatre, mostly in London, for arts and events websites. He blogs independently at www.johnnyfox.london.

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