The remarkable choreography of Derek Deane’s Swan Lake is once again being revived by English National Ballet at the London Coliseum – the ninth version ENB have staged. Combined with Tchaikovsky’s iconic score conducted by Gavin Sutherland and Peter Farmer’s traditional designs – an extension of the drama, romance and fairytale-like qualities of the story – you’ll be enthralled from the first glimpse of the mist-filled lake and returning after the two intervals to see the next set becomes a childishly thrilling experience for even the most well versed ballet-lover.
First premièred in 1877, although it was not initially well received, Swan Lake was destined to become Russia’s national ballet and the role of Odette/Odile, the pinnacle of any ballerina’s career, as ENB Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo herself declares. Yet, with so many legendary performers having played the role, it requires an immense acting ability – quite aside from dance technique. As one of the world’s most popular ballets, audience expectations are also (perhaps unreasonably) high; we have so many pre-conceived ideas of the princess who finds herself at the centre of the fantastical love triangle between Prince Siegfield and the sorcerer Rothbart (Fabian Reimair), who, half-man, half-bird, selfishly turns the Princess into a swan.
Prince Siegfield is in turn cruelly tricked by Rothbart to fall for Odette’s evil counterpart, the manipulative, yet erotic, black swan, Odile. To flee Rothbart’s clutches Prince Siegfield and Odette make the ultimate sacrifice in order to attain pure and immortal love, yet unfortunately Yonah Acosta’s pairing with Erina Takahashi was sadly lacking in chemistry and conviction. Having read the positive first night reviews of lead principal Alina Cojocaru (formerly of the Royal Ballet) and guest principal Ivan Vasiliev, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that Ascosta and Takahashi didn’t have the dazzle one hopes for. Yonah certainly has a long way to go to match up to the stage presence and charisma of his uncle Carlos.
Aside from the lack of poetry in the couple’s union, the rest of the cast, and especially the mesmerising cygnets, excelled at providing the quality of dance, timing and precision you take for granted from English National Ballet. From the scenes at the Great Hall of the Palace to the moonlit Lakeside, you are drawn into the greatest ballet in the classical repertoire. Transfixed by the beautiful lines, poise and grace of the company, the audience translate, through their movements and the emotional language of dance, the unfolding tale of one man’s selfish possession of, and another’s selfless devotion to, the captivating white swan, Odette.
English National Ballet’s Swan Lake at the London Coliseum until 18th January. For more information and tickets visit the website.