BWW Review: SWAN LAKE, London Coliseum
London dance fans are still reeling from the glorious opulence of Liam Scarlett's new Swan Lake for the Royal Ballet. Heavy with emotion, high on budget and dramatic staging, it's in stark contrast to the precise, drilled and efficient Swan Lake courtesy of Konstantin Tachkin's St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, playing at the London Coliseum this August.
The production is led by the company's only prima ballerina, Irina Kolesnikova, a dancer so ubiquitous she headlined her own season in London three years ago, alongside young Bolshoi Principal Denis Rodkin.
In many ways, this typically Russian Lake is entirely predictable. The corps of shimmering swans are disciplined but uninspired. Tchaikovsky's score never fails to captivate, but there are no goosebumps when the stage is filled by countless white tutus and wafting arms, nor when Rothbart and Odile enter the ball in Act III. Fortunately, Kolesnikova provides the much-needed drama, adding intrigue to this otherwise slightly bland production.
The traditional set is simple and indicative of a long-running touring production containing 2D designs for Acts I and II; the moon above the lake even appears a little creased and wrinkled, like it's been packed up once too many times. Act III, set in the Castle Ballroom, is more promising with its golden pillars and chandeliers, however it still lacks the wow factor of a sweeping staircase often seen within this scene.
None of that is surprising though, so what of the now 38-year-old Kolesnikova? As incomparable as ever, she puts on a formidable display that obliterates anyone who dares to share the stage with her. Her arms undulate from shoulder blade to finger nail and she makes easy work of the choreography's demanding lifts and balances. She is a pained Odette, her eyes wide and wild in torment, but better suited to the flashiness of Odile, cocking her leg into an arabesque with a knowing smirk.
Sadly Rodkin fails to make an impact as Siegfried. He is careful and well placed in Act I, his jumps are neat as his hair gently wafts upon landing, but on meeting Kolesnikova's Odette he is not as tormented or consumed with love as he needs to be. Kolesnikova is her own force, and although Rodkin displays some dependable partnering, his role seems almost decorative.
The supporting cast provide some enjoyable colour to the court scenes. Sergei Fedorkov is a likeable, impish court jester; he turns countless pirouettes with ease and his interplay within the pas de trois, offering a white rose to one princess who catches his eye, is a sweet addition. In the ballroom, in his fine regalia, he continues his run with some sky-high jetés and relentless leaps.
In the pas de trois, Olga Pavlova and new addition to the company, Yelyzaveta Barkalova, dance with lightness and joy, as well as sharp technique.
For all its dramatic shortcomings, this is still an enjoyable production of the classic story danced with impressive technical finesse. It doesn't match the emotions inherent within Scarlett's more recent interpretation, but Kolesnikova's domination of the iconic role and the exactness of the corps make for a worthwhile evening.
Image credit: Vladmir Zenzinov