London’s Coliseum – until 2 September 2018
It is all too rare that this blog visits the ballet for it is, quite simply, a treat to be able to sit in the Coliseum and savour the St Petersburg Ballet’s Swan Lake that is here in London for a fortnight.
The tale is a classic. Prince Siegfried falls for the beautiful Odette who has been placed under a spell by the evil Rothbart, condemning her and her peers to live as swans until the spell can be broken. The ballet is enchanting and under the vision of the company’s founding director Konstantin Tachkin, the interpretation is riveting.
As the Disney corporation discovered decades ago, you can’t beat a fairy tale for a ripping yarn. These ancient fables are typically simple, easily defined, make our imaginations soar, and are built upon strong moral foundations. But long before Disney, the Russian Tchaikovsky recognised Swan Lake’s magic, going on to write a score that is chock full of absolutely banging tunes.
Aside from those richly symphonic familiar melodies that we all know and love, the work is littered with exquisite references that draw upon Latin and Baroque influences to name but two. And to have the opportunity of hearing the score played live by the magnificent ENO Orchestra (under the baton, on press night, of Vadim Nikitin) only adds a further layer of delight to an already fabulous occasion.
Ballet, of course, demands that its narrative be played out through dance. Movement and nuance are everything – and Tachkin has coaxed virtually flawless work from his entire company. Prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova plays Odette (and also Odine, Rothbart’s daughter), bringing perfection in her poise and presence.
Compelling us to empathise with her plight, Kolesnikova is a picture of enchanting athleticism, while her pirouetting (and at a ridiculous rpm!) is almost Regan-esque in its intensity. Denis Rodkin dances Siegfried – a man who looks as good as he dances and, to use the Cockney vernacular, is clearly as fit as a butcher’s dog. His powerful moves appear effortless – and as he picks up and spins Kolesnikova, we have a rare chance to witness poetry in motion.
It’s not just these two though. Dmitriy Akulinin brings a captivating menace to Rothbart and in the ensemble there is excellence too. Sergei Fedorkov’s Jester is a delight, pirouetting and cartwheeling across the stage with as much acrobatic talent as dancing skill in his delivery. Likewise, the Four Little Swans’ routine provides another delicious moment, while the entire Corps De Ballet are just immaculate – not only in their dance – but in how they hold themselves poised and still on both sides of the space, frozen in time for what must be agonising minutes, framing the action that’s playing out centre stage
The production’s sets are as enchanting as the tale with Act 2 in particular, set in Siegfried’s castle, bearing the Gothic illusional finesse of an MC Escher graphic. In short, a marvellous evening’s dance and a production that should appeal to both connoisseurs and novices alike. Now that’s what I call ballet!
Runs until 2nd September