I should start this by qualifying up front that while I enjoy the ballet, I am by no means a seasoned or knowledgeable audience member. I find ballet staggeringly impressive in terms of the talent and physical/athletic demands and beautiful as an art form while still thinking things like “I wonder if her feet hurt” and “I hope he doesn’t drop her”.
With that in mind, we continue…
The story of Swan Lake is the stuff of fairy tales – prince falls in love with enchanted swan-woman, is tricked by evil magician into falling for an evil look alike; it’s all very Disney. The musical score will be recognisable event to those who have never been to the ballet before, so it’s one of my ‘entry level’ ballet suggestions for people who are keen to go. I’ve always thought of a trip to the ballet as an opulent treat, and in recent years I’ve organised outings with friends because I think everyone should experience it at least once. The music, the costumes, the breath-taking grace married with extreme physical strength – for me it’s always added up to something quite magical. I’m always mesmerised by the synchronicity of it all; a troupe of dancers perfectly executing each point, kick and dip to the same beat so that it almost looks like mirror images playing out across the stage.
While much of this was present in last night’s performance, I found that a bit of the gloss and sparkle that I had been hoping for was missing. The first scene of the first act in particular, both the set and the costumes felt a bit lacking, although as the show progressed these improved and Odette and the swan maidens were especially detailed and delicate. The Nerubashenko performers were of course incredibly talented but in some of the ensemble pieces that coordinated sharpness that I’ve always associated with ballet wasn’t quite there. It might be that I’ve never experienced ballet in such an intimate space before but at times it felt a bit cluttered/overcrowded.
The orchestra is as much a part of the production as the dancers and last nights was a dream. I was fortunate in being positioned relatively close and I enjoyed watching them perform nearly as much as I enjoyed listening. Again, I felt that they were disadvantaged by the staging and at one point was quite concerned that some members were going to drown in an enthusiastic burst of dry ice…
Again, these are just the views of an enthusiastic but ill-educated reviewer. The performances were very good, the orchestra was superb (and in case you were wondering, no one dropped anyone, so that was a win), but overall, I found this an enjoyable but fairly flat performance, and probably not one that I’d add to my list of ballets to introduce to my friends.
Reviewer: Zoё Meeres
Reviewed: 12th January 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★