Sunday, July 14

Swan Lake – Festival Theatre

David Dawson, who has created this new interpretation for Scottish Ballet, sees Swan Lake as the dance equivalent of the Mona Lisa’. This statement from the souvenir programme is one that stood out to me – it speaks to the monument of ballet that Swan Lake is. But unlike the Mona Lisa, it presents the advantage of being a form of art that is live, constantly in motion, with endless possibilities of reinterpretation.

With the aim of creating a show for a modern audience, Dawson stripped back the layers of the story to reach its essence: passion and betrayed trust. There are no elaborate palace and lakeside decors, or costumes adorned with tutus. The costumes, designed by Yumiko Takeshima, are for simplicity, elegancy, and showing off the physicality of the dance. No Baron von Rothbart either, the evil sorcerer responsible for cursing Odette and turning her into a swan – the argument for removing this presence being that it gives Odette more agency.

Photo: Andy Ross

Both stage and dancers are presented to us with modesty. Aside from a few splashes of colour we see from some of the costumes, mostly in Act II, the overall colour palette of the show is one of varying greys. The sets, designed by John Otto, are made up of clean lines, the difference between the palace scenes and lakeside scenes being rooted in effective subtlety: the lakeside scenes are performed against a half-moon crescent of light, suggestive of a dreamlike and otherworldly environment, along with contrasting scenery presenting sharp intermingled lines, reminiscent of tree branches, and possibly pointing to the doomed love between Odette and Siegfried. The lighting, designed by Bert Dalhuysen, echoes the costumes and sets in its sobriety, lighting the stage in a soft even white light for most of the performance.

All this certainly lets the company’s dancers’ skill shine – the choreography is magnificently executed by all involved, and Odette and her alter ego Odile, played by Sophie Martin, and Siegfried, played by Bruno Micchiardi, form a beautiful duo. The music by Tchaikovsky, brought to life by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra and conducted by Martin Yates, makes the narrative complete and bewitchingly complements the dancers’ elegant movements.

The Scottish Ballet’s Swan Lake exhibits some bold choices which leave us with a somewhat bare stage. While this lets the dancers’ undeniable technical prowess shine, and, one could argue, succeeds in embodying the spirit of romanticism, bringing to the fore the full force of human passions and emotions, it left me longing for more colour and nods to the story’s magical narrative.

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Reviewer: Louise Balaguer

Reviewed: 3rd May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.