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English National Ballet

'Swan Lake'

by Jessica Wilson

June 12, 2013 -- Royal Albert Hall, London, UK

English National Ballet’s “Swan Lake” in the round is a visually stunning masterpiece. At the Royal Albert Hall audiences were treated to a dazzling display by the sixty-plus swans danced by the corps de ballet; Matthew Golding debuting as Prince Siegfried, and ENB Artistic Director Tamara Rojo as Odette/Odile, even if the drama was missing at times.

A light-hearted start to the production shows the artists off to the best in the clean cut if well-known choreography. Max Westwell and Adela Ramirez stood out in particular. A couple of stumbles did not detract from the overall sense of fun and joy that served to welcome Golding’s entrance as Prince Siegfried. His extremely long legs help him give the illusion of spectacular height, but there was precise placement and superb elevation too. For James Streeter’s Rothbart it seemed simply to be a lot of (very convincing) bouncing down the auditorium steps and running around the stage perimeter in a cloak which looked a little too long. A shame, as he has so much more to give.

Act II is renowned for its poignant, ethereal quality, and ENB does not disappoint. The seemingly innumerate swans grace the stage causing ripples of delight in the audience at the sheer sight of them moving in perfect unison. Rojo’s entrance as Odette was met with curbed enthusiasm by her swans, protecting her and in turn complementing her extreme control and concentration. Remarkable as it may seem, Rojo rarely altered her facial expression much, appearing pained throughout. It was, though, extremely convincing. She was enthralling, commanding the space and demanding attention both from the audience and Siegfried in what can only be described as a dazzling display. Golding altered his expression even less. His character did not seem to develop, unlike his technical talent that most certainly did. Corps entrances and exits were noisy. Their pointe shoes could clearly be heard on the auditorium steps as they made their way on and off stage, distracting slightly from the illusion. They were no less beautiful, though.

The princesses in attendance at Siegfried’s Act III birthday celebration were the epitome of perfection, each depicting a different quality but all remaining regal in their secure technique. Nancy Osbaldeston and Yonah Acosta performed a delightful Neapolitan complete with tambourines, evoking a sense of mischief and were every inch the perfect partnership for this particular section. Osbaldeston’s bouncy quality radiated through her performance. Rojo was in her element as Odile. She lifted the act with her confident manner. In the much anticipated Black Swan pas de deux, Rojo did not disappoint in her 32 fouettés, turning them to face each of the four sides of the auditorium. Golding seemed to soar above the stage in his solos, floating in his jetés and demonstrating the ultimate in control in his double tours. Here the sorrow of the deceived prince was evident, and heightened by Odile and Rothbart’s success in betraying Odette.

The drama, unfortunately somewhat lacking in previously, continued into Act IV. Here Rojo truly came into her own by portraying a second side of the vulnerable Odette, eventually triumphing over Rothbart. This really was one of those occasions when, as Balanchine said should be the case, one heard the dance and saw the music. It was a great end to a wonderful evening in which the corps should be commended for their helping in the creation of the seamless narrative, carrying the audience though, with Rojo and Golding sitting proudly on top.

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