I had a golden ticket for Swan Lake with Carlos Acosta and Russian star of the ballet, Natalia Osipova but circumstances ended up with having to watch this on the big screen in not-so-sunny Belfast of a Tuesday evening. The build-up to this event was superb by the Royal Opera House, supplying video material on social media, a #ROHswanlake hash-tag so that audience members could follow and stay in touch and producing a suitable build-up. The Royal Opera House have obviously fully embraced their public around the globe with comments coming in from all over the World, I saw tweets from Brazil, Germany and just round the corner, venues from fellow ballet-dancer Lauren Cuthbertson (@LondonBallerina) and Canary Wharf (@DaveTriesBallet) who remarked that Swan Lake was much more exciting than the Bond premiere, although one Ms Bussell was to be seen strutting the red carpet rather than fouette-ing on the Covent Garden stage but then, if my retirement involved hanging out with Daniel Craig, I’d do it. On this evening, the star roles were taken by Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish. Rather than being disappointed, I was really looking forward to seeing Zenaida Yanowsky who had been tipped off by @theballetbag girls is exceptional in this role. I had previously felt a little underwhelmed by Nehemiah Kish but was previous roles I had seen him in were limited for males. However, there are more than enough reviews of Swan Lake by people much more experienced and competent than I so my main thoughts were about the cinema experience. However I will say that I would love to see someone beefing up the role of Siegfried and make him an equal to Odette, however, Siegfried probably goes on a steeper trajectory, or he should do, from a preening dandy chasing after the latest thing to willingly giving up his life to for his true love. There are flashes of brilliance as Siegfried is seduced by Odile and they both show-off to each other and their associated audiences, as they bust out their most exciting moves. This particular section is probably the most anticipated of all ballet solos and too much of the performance hangs on how many fouettes the leading ballerina completes, as the poor leading man, leaps and jumps round the stage but little is said about his virtuoso leaps and spins. Then, this is from a different age where the man was there largely to make the ballerina look good and be a strong base and contrast to her slight, feminine beauty. That, of course, has all changed and ballerinas too come in all shapes and sizes and the men are allowed to be much more muscular and powerful and I, for one, would love to see their prowess more to the fore in this particular ballet.
Swan Lake could probably do with some updating, especially since Matthew Bourne’s all-male casting and not forgetting the Trocks who are bringing their, probably thankfully unique version, to the Grand Opera House in February. Saying that, the strength of the piece is not just the dual Odette/ Odile roles but the corps also receive star billing and the pas de quatre dancers, flourishing with some of the most intricate footwork that cannot be misplaced in any way and they dance in this formation for quite some time. Swan Lake is full of iconic moments and that is why it remains so popular, to this day. During the performance, the cinema audience have the added treat of being able to see videos of behind-the-scenes footage and one of these was highlighting that the Corps also share top billing in this ballet. The corps, made up of ballerinas dressed in pristine white, short tutus to show off their swan-like legs with the stark, blue-white lights, highlighting their fragility at the hands of an evil, powerful sorcerer. The concepts are definitely of a by-gone age but we all love a good fairy-tale and Swan Lake is so evocative with young lives that were not allowed to begin, trapped in a life without love but with that tantalising hope that the precocious Odile, who does not want to accept her fate and stands out as the hope for this pure band of wronged maidens.
Cinema is not a replacement to the Live performance but, if you are lucky enough to be able to travel to or live in London, with multiple casting, the cinema gives you the option to able to see multiple offerings, side by side and with performers that are possibly not a priority to see but would still really like to see them. It is fair to say that the stars of this particular run of Swan Lake were Osipova/ Acosta but then, if someone has told you that Zanaida Yanowsky’s Swan Lake is pretty extraordinary and very moving, this gives patrons the opportunity to do so without having the outlay of two trips to the theatre. Although, the cinema price is more expensive than you’re usual trip, especially outside of London but that is because you are getting nearly three hours of live-by-satellite entertainment from one of the greatest arts venues in the world and it is an excuse to get a little bit dolled up, how many times in life do you get the opportunity? The best description I heard from another blogger was Pirouettes, Popcorn and Pearls, of the title. I think that this is what I’ll think of, of my ballet in the cinema experience from now on and treat it like a night to the theatre and put on a pair of killer heels and nice top and scoff some popcorn whilst watching some of the finest ballet in the world, at a much more intimate distance than any patron seated in the auditorium. The camerawork got right in where the action was and amongst the feet of the corps in their magical display, creating a gilded prison for lost girls where they support each other and use the darkness of the evening as a veil so that they can live out freely spreading their magical beauty around the stage. Carlos Acosta in his recent interview praised the Corps for how hard they work and with the ending of the Swan Lake run, each corps dancer was presented with a red rose which is such a beautiful touch and maybe don’t receive star billing but are very much part of the team that make Swan Lake the ballet that we know and love and keep coming back for more, time and again.