Dance Review Swan Lake, English National Ballet

With two very different Swan Lakes on London stages, Joy Sable enjoys this traditional performance by the English National Ballet


Two very different Swan Lakes are currently on offer in London. At Sadler’s Wells, audiences can enjoy Sir Matthew Bourne’s radical reworking of the classic, while at the Coliseum, the English National Ballet is presenting a more traditional production – and what a delight it is.

Derek Deane has added his own touches to the familiar Petipa/Ivanov choreography, along with a couple of dances by Sir Frederick Ashton. The costumes by Peter Farmer are beautiful, if a little muted in Act I, and the lighting, particularly in the lakeside scenes, adds to the atmosphere.

On opening night, Odette/Odile was danced by the Russian ballerina, Jurgita Dronina. She is a wonderfully vulnerable Odette, hardly daring to believe that Prince Siegfried’s love will save her. Technically assured, she is a cold, calculating Odile, with a lovely extension and extravagant arms. As Siegfried, Isaac Hernandez has remarkable elevation and is a steady, reliable partner.

James Streeter overdoes it as Rothbart, with so much wing-beating, he is more bat out of hell then evil sorcerer.  Plaudits must go to the amazing corps de ballet of swans: immaculately drilled, they move as one; their dancing is a wonder to behold.

The company is on top form and it is difficult to single out dancers for praise, but in Act III Crystal Costa and Barry Drummond fizz like champagne in Ashton’s famous Neapolitan Dance, and the Czardas and Mazurka are danced with passion. Indeed, all the dances are taken a quite a pace – cuts have been made to the Act III climax which destroys the tension leading up to Siegfried’s betrayal. There should be more drama at this point in the story….some smoke perhaps, to emphasise the (temporary) victory of the evil duo. The Act IV finale is also a tad too speedy as our hero and heroine depart to swan heaven.

But these are mere irritants. It is a wonderful night out and if you are looking for the ultimate ballet treat, then this Swan Lake will not disappoint.

Swan Lake, by the English National Ballet, is at the London Coliseum until 13 January.

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