Reviewed by Ruthie Luff
A fury of sparkling white tutus scurried across Richmond Theatre’s stage on Wednesday night, as The Moscow City Ballet performed Swan Lake. And no, Natalie Portman did not make an appearance.
Even if ballet isn’t your cup of tea, there is a lot to be admired when watching these ballerinas bend over backwards with their legs hiked above their heads, dancing in perfect unison to Tchaikovsky’s blissful score.
Perhaps one of the most well-known ballets, Swan Lake is believed to be based on a fable which follows the story of Prince Siegfried as he falls in love with the beautiful Swan Queen, Odette (stunningly portrayed by Liliya Oryekhova). Odette, once a beautiful Princess, is transformed into a swan by an evil Sorcerer. The story is one which shows love to conquer all things, including evil. It’s a shame that none of the dancers’ names were listed in the programme, as there are plenty of standout performances. Oryekhova, though, was on a level of her own, mesmerising the audience with her line, extension, form, and grace. She really embodied her character with bird-like mannerisms, flapping her arms until her shoulders seemed to dislocate.
Other stands outs included the Jester and Prince Siegfried. The Jester never lost his big goofy smile and managed to fouetté over and over again until the audience was dizzy. Prince Siegfried really dominated the stage with his masculinity and poise. As captivating as our Prince was, he seemed, at times, to just go through the (e)motions. Mind you, he was wearing the tightest white tights known to mankind, so most people weren’t looking at his face.
The company as a whole showed unparalleled talent. These dancers who have claimed a spot in Russia’s most successful touring ballet company have trained since they were children and were handpicked from the most prestigious Russian and Ukrainian ballet schools. Their ability is yes, outstanding, but I have to say, their visual engagement wasn’t always on. They either had painted faces of enthusiasm or no expression at all.
The Moscow Ballet Orchestra was truly exquisite. They brought Tchaikovsky’s score off the page and lifted the audience and dancers with every pique turn.
The elements of the show that lacked lustre would’ve been the lighting and set. The lighting only went from neutral to blue and back to neutral. I think the drama of the piece would’ve benefited from a more elaborate lighting design. The same goes for the set. The set was comprised of simple drop cloth backgrounds of a very flat landscape. It was dull — a sharp contrast to the beautiful costumes. I know it’s a touring show, but a new scenic design wouldn’t hurt. If the lighting and set were at the standard of the dancing, then the entire production would be absolutely spell bounding.
Overall, the performance was lovely to watch, even if the noisy sweet wrapper lady managed to irritate ½ the audience by unwrapping what must’ve been an entire bag of sweets! Aside from that there were plenty of happy punters. At intermission you could hear the positive reviews from the ballet veterans, the ballet first-timers and even the little girls who sat next to me. Swan Lake really had something to offer everyone!