Swan Lake in-the-round, an insight

Swan Lake in-the-round, Dress Rehearsal

Arguably the most famous ballet of all time, Swan Lake, returns to the Royal Albert Hall this month as English National Ballet perform in-the-round at this famous venue. Produced by Derek Deane, who some may recognise from the BBC series ‘Agony and Ecstasy’ which aired in October 2011, it is a gargantuan production in Swan Lake statistics: 120 dancers, 60 swans, 80 musicians, the 7th season this version has been performed and 550,000 audience members since the premiere in 1997. This version allows the audience closer to the dancers than ever before, and I mean close, with visible sweat drips, wind rushes and noisy pointe shoes included.

Photography by Ash

The Dress Rehearsal gets off to a promising start as Tchaikovsky’s score soars from above the stage, conducted fervently by Gavin Sutherland, as the company enter in a flood of elaborate costumes. They weave in and out of their geometric patterns that need a bird’s eye view to fully appreciate the mechanics of this formation engineering on such a large-scale. Michael Coleman, in his role as the Tutor, provides the comedy whilst James Streeter, as Rothbart, makes a dramatic entrance rising up from the centre of the smoke swathed stage. With a Harry Potter style scar on his forehead he makes a first-rate villain.

Vadim Muntagirov commands the space during his love forlorn solo in the first act; his 23 years of age giving him the aptitude to create the vulnerability and innocence of Prince Siegfried. He dances alongside his ‘perfect partner’ Daria Klimentová who is no stranger to the roles of Odette and Odile, and slots in to them beautifully. Less than a month after having won the prize for best performance at the Prix Benois de la Danse for his role as the Prince in MacMillan’s Sleeping Beauty, Muntagirov is fast becoming a ballet celebrity. He exits to a loud cheer from his adoring audience and gives a good-humoured wave in return.

Act II brings the production to life as beating pointe shoes signal the entrance of the company through the audience. The sultry Spanish Dance and the hip wiggling Neopolitan pas de deux give way to Russian Czardas and the dance descends in to a flurry of fast footwork and frantic partnering. There are a few minor problems for the dress rehearsal as Dean’s voice booms over the microphone; too much dry ice, quicker furniture removal needed, and a couple of slips for Daria. But with smiles of support from the company who are clearly enjoying themselves and look confident for opening night; this Swan Lake in statistics: 1 happy customer.

Laura Warner