By Abbie Rands
Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake is the first of four shows being performed by the world renowned Russian ballet company in Cardiff this December-January. If you have the chance to catch one, do so; the experience is absolutely magical.
I must confess that going in, my knowledge of Swan Lake came from the Barbie adaptation, which is not exactly true to form. The haunting, atmospheric score was played with ethereal precision by the Russian State Ballet Orchestra, by turns melancholy and lively and it completely made the performance, tying together a story which could be quite confusing without reading the accompanying synopsis.
The entire performance had joie de vivre in every step and the choreography was breathtaking, with some of the most impressive lifts I have seen on stage. Particularly astonishing was the choreography of Odile, danced by Anna Fedosova in a dual role as Odette, whose intense and precise pas de deux at Prince Siegfried’s party left the audience ecstatic. The synchronicity in the company sequences was gorgeous, especially the ‘Swans’, driving home the amount of time and effort that has gone into this production.
The dual role of Odette and Odile was particularly impressive, moving from a softness and tragedy to confidence and malice with seamless ease. Maksim Ikonostasov was also incredible to watch as Odette’s raven-disguised father, dancing with the kind of power and intention that I’ve never seen in ballet before. Davide Sichetti puts in a highly enjoyable turn as Prince Siegfried’s friend, Benno, whose cheekiness and amazing pirouette sequences lit up the stage. The Prince himself, played by Daniil Kostylev was a beautiful and emotional dancer and his tragic end was truly heartbreaking. His interactions with Odette are especially moving, watching the pair move from hopeful innocence to pain and ultimately sacrifice.
The second act was perhaps the most visually interesting half of the show, with an explosion of colour in the first scene and a dynamic variation in choreography as the different brides dance for the prince. The ‘Hungarian’ dance by Anastsiia Osokina was particularly upbeat and fun and a special mention has to go to Perdita Jayne Lancaster as the Neopolitan bride and a maid of honour earlier in the performance; she has the biggest smile of any dancer on stage and her moments in the spotlight are an absolute joy to watch. Of course, the main event in this scene is Odile’s entrance and solo and it is by far the most challenging and dynamic part of the ballet. Siegfried’s realisation that he has proposed to the wrong woman and return to Odette is heart-wrenching, and her forgiveness only serves to make the final showdown with her father that much more intense and wrought with tension. The staging of the Prince’s sacrifice is outstanding, and Odette’s final sequence is full of sadness and loss as the curtain closes.
In true fairy tale fashion, Swan Lake is not a happy ballet. However, there are joyful moments, and the tragedy of it is so compelling it’s never been such a joy to be miserable. An absolutely outstanding turn from an incredible ballet company.