Saturday, 26 September 2015

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Swan Lake at the Lowry

Reproduced under standard YouTube licence

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Swan Lake, The Lowry 24 Sept 2015

I like a traditional Swan Lake. The productions by David Nixon, Christopher Moore and Matthew Bourne are all quite admirable in their way but I want my swans to be girls, the same ballerina to dance Odette and Odile with 32 fouettés in act III and the action to take place somewhere in Central Europe rather than the United States. Peter Wright's production for the Birmingham Royal Ballet was of the traditional kind and it was one of the best I have ever seen.

Even though it followed tradition Sir Peter did add some original touches which I think worked quite well. During the overture the curtain lifted on a funeral cortège for Siegfried's father. Suddenly the 21 year old has to assume state responsibilities including marriage to a princess who will bear children to continue the royal line. The weight of those responsibilities come home to him as he dances alone towards the end of the first act. Such a Siegrfied meeds to be a young, sensitive dancer and that role was danced exquisitely by Joseph Caley.

Such a Siegried also needs a very special Swan Queen. A fragile and vulnerable Odette and a wily and wilful Odile. Such roles are not always combined well. Some ballerinas soar as swans but are utterly unconvincing seductresses. For other it is the other way round. On Thursday night Momoko Hirarata excelled in both. Her solo in the pas de deux in the third act with all those turns was breathtaking. How could any prince resist her even if he had been aware that she was Rothbart's daughter.

I was delighted to see Celine Gittens as the Polish princess who is one of my favourites in the company. Ruth Brill, another favourite was also there as one of Siegrfied's attendants. Valentin Olovyannikov made a formidable Rothbart and Matthias Dingman a faithful Benno.

I should say a word for Philip Prowse's designs which were magnificent  I was particularly impressed with the lakeside scene with the moonlight reflected by the ripples on the surface. It was a beautiful romantic setting enchanting but also slightly forbidding.

Having attended KNT's summer intensive last month I took a particular interest in the dances that I had learned. I relived every temps levé and arabesque of the swans, the pas de chats and changements of the cygnets, my feeble attempts to pirouette and turn in the air in Siegfried's solo and the stately czardas.  That course enhanced my appreciation of the ballet a hundred thousand times. I wish I could do a similar workshop for every ballet I see.

In the first interval I met Janet McNulty in the temporary bar area. She was as enthralled by the performance as much as I had been. She had already seen Gittens and Tyrone Singleton the night before for which I really envy her.  I wish I could have seen the other casts but I was also performing today and had to rehearse for my show. However I love this production and was well satisfied with Thursday night's show. I hope to see it again with the other casts at one of the other venues this season,

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