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Australian Ballet’s Swan Lake

Arts & Culture

It’s easy to see why Swan Lake is one of the world’s most-loved ballets.  Tchaikovsky’s music itself is magnificent, but then you add a huge ballet company on stage telling a seriously silly story of a doomed romance. 

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This production was created by the Australian Ballet’s resident choreographer, Stephen Baynes.  It is a big, beautiful, chocolate-box ballet, full of delightful grand pas, dramatic pas de deux, and wonderful movements for the corps.

The work was originally devised in 2012 to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary and Adelaide audiences may remember it from its season here in 2013.  Swan Lake was the very first work the new AB presented on stage back in 1962; lovers of traditional ballet will not be disappointed with this delightful production.

The star of the show is principal ballerina Amber Scott, dancing the lead as the black swan Odile and the white swan Odette.  She is simply superb, perfectly embodying the duality of the role.  This demanding part is undoubtedly a highlight of any ballerina’s career and Scott does it full justice.  She is well supported by the entire company of white swans, who are just magical to watch.

Adam Bull dances the lovelorn Prince Siegfried with intense concentration. While his performance technically strong, I would have preferred a little more emotion in his interpretation to make the love story more believable.

Act 1 is set in the Palace as the courtiers try to find a bride for the young Prince.  This was a lovely act, but a rather shaky opening, with a lack of precision in the timing and spacing.  The second act, set by the lake, was much stronger.  The well-known dance of the cygnets was executed superbly with elegance and precision.

The  opening of act 3 is glorious, with the dancers in the Palace Ballroom dressed in muted shades of mint and lilac.  The fiery Spanish dancers and swirling Cossacks make a dramatic counterpoint.

Swan Lake reaches its sad ending in act 4, again by the lake.  This production offers a rather subdued finale as a reflection of Prince Siegfried’s fate.

There are some wonderful moments in the production, especially in the celebrated white acts with 24 gorgeous swans in tutus  on the lake.  The costume and set designs, both by Hugh Colman, are excellent and really add to the dramatic impact of the production.

Parts of the work include large-scale projections created by Domenico Bartolo.  These felt like an unnecessary contrivance, detracting from the quality of the work.

And a final special mention to the players of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, who handled Tchaikovsky’s score with pace and vigour under guest conductor Andrew Mogrelia.

Dancers Amber Scott and Adam Bull. Photo: Daniel Boud

Dancers Amber Scott and Adam Bull. Photo: Daniel Boud

Australian Ballet is presenting Swan Lake at the Festival Theatre until May 31.

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