Bristol Theatre News

Chopsy Baby is Reviewing… Swan Lake by The Russian State Ballet of Siberia at the Bristol Hippodrome

Tuesday 08 January 2013

swan lake
There are high points and not so high points in The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s production of Swan Lake.

Act One was mainly the not so high point. But Act Two definitely reached the peaks expected and demanded from this ballet.

The orchestra during Act One generally plodded along, lacking pace and emotional depth. The one exception was the Pas de Deux between Prince Siefried and Odette. The leader violin and harpist in this scene are exceptional. But as soon as the curtain lifted for Act Two, the orchestra are on fine form. Occasionally they run away with themselves, but are at their best during the national dances.

The dancing itself is at times sublime. The production is ultra traditional. The costumes are gorgeous and the dancers are brilliant. Once the jollying around of Scene 1 is out of the way, they are left to get on with what they do best.

Odette/Odile – Maria Kuimova – is sensational during Act Two. Her transformation from vulnerable Odette to the fiery, dark Odile is brilliant.

Kirill Litvinenko as Prince Siegfried sadly suffers the trauma that most male ballet dancers face in traditional ballets. They just never really get a chance to get their teeth into character. When the opportunity does present itself, he bounces and flies through the air with controlled strength and a vulnerability.

All the drama in traditional ballet is quite wooden, relying on mime and gestures to help the storyline along. The nature of this beast means the dancers can never fully throw themselves into the menacing dark heart at the centre of Swan Lake. Not in a way that the direction and choreography of other productions can – such as Matthew Bourne’s version – which really rips the passion and soul from inside the principles.

The big, big ending of this production is a little bit of a let down. The music and the dancers have brought us all to this pivotal moment. It’s the part where something tragic is going to happen. Prince Siegfried and/or Odette is going to die. What is supposed to happen in this version is that the Prince drags Rothbart into the lake where they both drown. Odette is left to mourn.

What actually happens is Rothbart disappears into the lake bed sheets and the comedy smoke. Siegfried follows him into the washing line. We are all there waiting for the big tragic moment. The bit where the Swan Theme goes major. And it fails to happen. That was it. Odette beautifully dances a little I’m in mourning dance, and the curtain falls.

If you are the kind of person who wants to stand next to the orchestra shouting ‘late’ at the swan in the Corps de Ballet who puts their arm up after everyone else. Or, tempted to pop a defibrillator on the conductor because the swans can’t dance in slow motion, then this production will at times leave you squirming.

But for everybody else, this will be thoroughly enjoyable evening, with great ballet, bright costumes and men in tights.