Close Encounters – Swan Lake

I’m pretty sure I must have had the best seat in the house for Tuesday night’s preview of Swan Lake; front row centre, and immediately next to a thrust of the stage – which provided a main entrance and exit for the dancers.

English National Ballet Swan Lake in-the-round by Ash 2

Photography by ASH

However, as I was about to discover, the position of your seat will not prevent your enjoyment of this fantastic performance!  The nature of this particular show being staged in the round means that any member of the audience has the opportunity of being inches away from the action, literally, at any given time.  Being in an aisle seat, I personally had the pleasure of being subjected to very close encounters with the performers.  And when I say close, I mean close.  The seaweed-like tendrils of wrath belonging to James Streeter’s costume, struck me on more than one occasion as he stormed on and off stage.  He played a fearless Rothbart showing an intense purpose which made us all gasp in delight.

This is not the only advantage of the staging.  Deane’s brave choice to use 60 swans for the production means that they flood the misty lake of the stage with ease, their synchronisation and canons meaning that you never miss a movement.  Your eyes take in the ghostly scenes unfolding from the haze; an overall closeness for the entire audience is achieved as their pirouettes and arabesques seem to reach every inch of the stage whilst remaining in perfect line formations.

Intimacy was achieved throughout the performance through the flawless technique showcased by the two principal roles of the evening, Daria Klimentová and Vadim Muntagirov, who personified a powerful chemistry as a duet.  A competitive edge was evident with each of them trying to surpass the efforts of the other during their pas de deux.  This took their already strong characters further, and gave a slight air of a mating ritual that was impossible to ignore.

Aside from the comments of approval that laced the audience as they left the Royal Albert Hall, perhaps the most talked about aspect of the adaptation was the welcome fairy tale ending.   You really must go and see it to believe it, from whichever seat you are sitting in!

Alison Jackson