The Russian Imperial Ballet: Swan Lake

17 Oct

The Russian Imperial ballet is often considered to be the world’s greatest ballet company, producing the world’s greatest dancers, and there is no doubt that there was an abundance of graceful athleticism in Saturday’s production of Swan Lake. There were two particularly striking performances: Von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer and owl-like creature was lithe and almost serpentine in his movements. But it is Odette, the beautiful and pure white swan, who was by far the most breath-taking. Fragile and frantic, precarious and elegant, I can easily say I have never seen Odette danced so well before.

However, traditionally the part of Odile – the seductive, evil black swan – is played by the same dancer as Odette, a grueling task for any dancer, but also the reason why it is the most beloved role for a prima ballerina. For some reason the RIB chose to use a different dancer for Odile, who, while more than competent, didn’t have the electric fervor that made Odette so captivating. I still hoped that the final scene, where Odette and her prince drown in a lake of tears, would bring back the emotional resonance lost by Odile’s underwhelming performance.

Also, had I read the RIB website I would have learned that their version, “follows the original storyline with the happy ending which was decreed by Soviet rule in the 1930’s during the reign of then Russian Leader Stalin”. The world’s most famous ballet company performing the most famous ballet decided to take plot advice from Stalin?

Still, you would ultimately be hard pressed to find the kind of exquisite display of dancing that the Russians provide – in this capacity at least, Swan Lake is as beautifully moving as it has ever been.


By Tessa Clews


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