Monday, 24 June 2013

Swan Lake in the Round

Swan Lake, English National Ballet, Royal Albert Hall - reviewed on 22nd June
Finally I got to see Derek Deane's production of Swan Lake in the round, on its 123rd performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Young corps de ballet dancer Laurretta Summerscales was seriously impressive in the leading role, but what did I think of the rest of the production? Is the round stage better or worse than the traditional proscenium arch?
Swan Lake publicity image, featuring Elena Glurdjidze

Graham Watts described the production on Londondance as like "standing behind a horse’s rear end" and of course, the audience is subjected to more unflattering angles than would be typical in a normal theatre where only the front-on view is visible. But from my seat, there wasn't too much 'horse's rear end' to make me unhappy.
What did make me unhappy however, was the sheer volume of activity that was taking place at one time. From the distraction of the dancers coming onto stage via the aisle next to me, to acrobats and jugglers, there were times when the ballet lacked a clear focus.
Deane's reworking of the original choreography to fit the round stage worked well, with group dances, such as the pas de trois, having additional performers facing different directions at the same time, and the notably tricky 32 fouettés changing front gradually around the full 360 degrees. However, in some pas de deux and solos, the choreography felt overly repetitive as it was repeated to different sides of the audience.
60 swans moving as one looked amazing, but there was a real problem with banging pointe shoes. Company dancer Jenna Lee tweeted that she uses plasters on the outside of her shoes to eliminate noise and though it's not pretty, perhaps the rest of the cast should do the same. The elegant mass of white is somewhat less elegant when accompanied by loud thumping sounds!

Nevertheless, this was a great Swan Lake and I would certainly go again (especially to see the fabulous Summerscales). What made it most impressive was the incredible musical sound in the Royal Albert Hall. It made Tchaikovsky's music much more powerful and all-encompassing than a typical theatre set-up.

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