London Coliseum

4 January 2019

Maggie Foyer

Derek Deane’s Swan Lake is a truly magical experience. It ticks all the right boxes and gets to the heart of the matter: love and death in a setting of great beauty. The dancers are world class and Tchaikovsky’s music is played with passion – it’s no wonder the season is a sell-out.

English National Ballet in Swan Lake Photo: Laurent Liotardo

English National Ballet in Swan Lake
Photo: Laurent Liotardo

Alina Cojocaru is the jewel in the crown; a powerhouse of emotion in a tiny, fragile body. Her arms fold and melt with the softness of downy wings, a complement to the steel of her legs as she sails effortlessly through this marathon role. She can, with a look or turn of her head, bring to life the whole thrust of the narrative; emphasised in the purity of her Odette or the hauteur of Odile. Her Siegfried was the comely Jeffrey Cirio, as charming a Prince as you’re ever likely to meet and with a dance technique to complement. He was totally besotted by Cojocaru at the lakeside and bedazzled at the ball.

English National Ballet in Swan Lake Photo: Laurent Liotardo

English National Ballet in Swan Lake
Photo: Laurent Liotardo

One of the chief delights of Deane’s choreography is the clear definition of characters. In Act One, the Prince’s courtly friends dance with formal precision while the peasant Polonaise is a gutsy affair. In the Pas de Trois Emma Hawes danced with artless joy while Precious Adams’ variation was a more sophisticated solo, her long arms effectively employed in graceful ports de bras. Aitor Arrieta danced the male role with breath taking precision displaying the cleanest of classical lines.

Although very traditional, the ballroom scene was unexpectedly engaging. The Czardas and Mazurka were danced with flair and six beautiful Princesses were graciously rejected. Frederick Ashton’s Neapolitan, a delicious bit of fiddly footwork, was given a sparky performance by Anjuli Hudson and Noam Durand and the very sexy Spanish went beyond expectations.

One role which suffers in the transfer from the Royal Albert Hall arena to the Coliseum stage is that of Rothbart. James Streeter’s dynamic runs and the powerful swirl of his magnificent cloak that thrilled in the round looked squeezed and repetitive in the more restricted space. However, his flock of swans behaved impeccably, framing the action in faultless lines and in harmony with both mood and music.

English National Ballet in Swan Lake Photo: Laurent Liotardo

English National Ballet in Swan Lake
Photo: Laurent Liotardo

Peter Farmer’s designs are the perfect complement. The colours and design of the costumes delight without straying too far from convention and the transitions, particularly the opening scene into the first act and the dramatic end to the ball are quite magical. All in all, an evening of totally satisfying dance.