Moscow City Ballet: Swan Lake | Palace Theatre | Manchester
Balancing flights of fantasy in celebratory settings, Moscow City Ballet’s strong storytelling will boost audience’s appreciation of one of ballets most popular classics.
Suspended disbelief and enter a world in which an evil magician has cast a spell condemning the young Odette to be a swan by day and human by night. With the only cure being the love of a young man who has never loved before, the four acts switch between the bank of Odette’s lake and Prince Siegfried’s castle.
This reprised mix of tragedy, romance and magic has kept audiences under a spell since it premiered in 1877. At the Palace Theatre, Moscow City Ballet has kept the tradition going, absorbing audiences with an emotive take on the bewitching tale. The long-established settings to this Tchaikovsky classic keeps the focused fixed on the music, performed by The Rakhmaninov Symphony Orchestra and the technical ability of its principal dancers.
The Ballet company of primarily young dancers are given the freedom to tell the story through the use of mime acting and clever choreography by Natalia Ryshenko and Victor Smirnov-Golovanov. Companies that overemphasise the moves and downplay the story can make Swan Lake feel somewhat mechanical. If you are unfamiliar with the story (or ballet in general) an overly technical performance can deprive audiences of fully appreciating the challenge of repetitive moves and it can become quite monotonous to watch scenes without Odette/Odile.
Moscow City Ballet includes simple but effective features to explain the story and add a sense of drama. Costume designer, Natalia Povago creates a block outfit for Odile in act 3 who enters in a half black, half white dress and matching tiered tutu. The use of comedy and casting through the roles of the jester and the evil magician (Baddie Kozhabayev Talgat) enrich the storyline but also bring stunning solo performances that often steals the scene.
Lilia Orekhova is also assured and powerful as the fearless double, Odile but offers an impassioned act as Odette. The shadowy and romantic scenes are wrapped in precision and emotion, flurrying on stage with a serene posse of swans, Orekhova daintily crafts her faultless moves centre stage. On pointe for over five minutes, she delivers an expressive performance deeper than her poise. Orekhova Evokes the spirit of the seductive story, connecting with the audience and conveying the character in alluring routines.
The shadowy, sombre surroundings formed by Victor Smirnov-Golovanov are eclipsed by the crisp white tutus of the swans, made to float by the beautiful creatures lining the stage in masterful formations. With a haunting finale tied down in tradition, Odette is rescued by her true love after an epic battle between the magician and Prince Siegfried. The use of mood lighting and mist brings an added touch of mystery and magic to the final act, but Swan Lake’s fantastical moments are a surprise to no one. There is a reason these familiar oldies still carry their weight with audiences, it is their mixture of treasures and tradition that holds a special emotional resonance. If you have never taken the opportunity to watch Swan Lake, I recommend that you do because we can all appreciate a classic.