Sunday, 10 November 2019

Cork City Ballet's Swan Lake

Andrei Bolotin and Ekaterina Borytakova in Cork City Ballet's Swan Lake
Author Miki Barlok   Copyright  Cork City Ballet 2019: all rights reserved
Licence Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Cork City Ballet  Swan Lake  9 Nov 2019, 14:30 Cork Opera House

I have seen bigger and better-resourced performances of Swan Lake but seldom have I enjoyed a performance as much as Saturday afternoon's by the Cork City Ballet at the Cork Opera House. There are two reasons for that. The first is that Yury Demakov, the choreographer, made the very best of the resources that were available to him not only in casting but also in procuring costumes and a sound recording from Russia. The second is that ballet should be an interaction between performers and audience rather than a passive exhibition and on Saturday it really was two-way communication.  The Corkonian audience seems to know and appreciate its ballet and supported the company with a 100% standing ovation at the end.

This was a traditional Swan Lake without gimmicks except perhaps for the Soviet-style happy ending.  All the characters were there except Benno. The plot was spelt out with stark clarity.  Siegfried pledges his troth to Odette in the second act with his index and forefinger.  He is tricked by von Rothbart into breaking it by making the same pledge to Odile.  In this production, Siegfried manages to redeem himself not by sacrificing his life but by destroying the wicked magician.

For Siegfried, Demakov recruited Bolshoi soloist Andrei Bolotin, a powerful but slick virtuoso.  For Odette-Odile he cast Ekaterina Bortyakova.  I am told that she came from the Moscow State Ballet but I have been unable to find out much about her career. Like Bolotin, she gave a technically flawless performance. In my introduction to Cork City Ballet, I noted that there were no permanent members of the company other than the founder, Alan Foley, Demakov and their immediate circle.  All other artists are recruited on short term contracts.  They were all good but some stood out.  I was particularly impressed by Robert J Thomas, the jester, Andrew McFarlane who danced the pas de trois and the Spanish divertissement and his partners, Nicole Federov and Julie Pochko.

I am nor sure who designed the sets but I liked the castle and hills in the backcloth to act I.  They reminded me of Westmeath though I suppose they could have been some other part of Ireland.   They were certainly nowhere else and that is as it should be for an Irish company.

It is not every company in the world that can persuade its head of state to contribute a foreword to its programme, but that is exactly what President Higgins has done for the Cork City Ballet.  The company will perform The Nutcracker this time next year.  I hope this review will encourage my compatriots to join me in the auditorium for a company that inspires such pride and affection is definitely worth watching.

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