Nerubashenko Ballet presents Swan Lake – Richmond Theatre, London

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Artistic Director: Marina Medvetskaya

This production of Swan Lake performed by Nerubashenko Ballet has two excellent principals. Kateryna Floria is superb in the double role of Odette, the white swan, and Odille, the dangerously seductive black swan. Floria effortlessly commands the stage with her poise and strong, graceful movements. Everything about her is expressive. When she comes on as Odille, she conveys malice in her pose, the arch of her neck and in particular, her facial expression of wonderfully sneering triumphalism.

Ulan Beisenbayev is delightful as the Jester, with his range of gravity-defying leaps and acrobatic flips and turns. He too, like Floria, is a good actor, playfully interacting with the other characters on stage and making comic gestures directly to the audience.

The members of the corps de ballet, however, are not in the same league. It’s extremely difficult to get much information about who they are: there is no information online or in the programme about the performers or the creatives behind the show. The dancers of the corps appear to be very young and inexperienced, and while it is commendable that new dancers get opportunities such as this to perform, they are noticeably weak in comparison with the principals. They seem under-rehearsed, their movements not always perfectly synchronised.

The corps improve in the folk dances in the second act, particularly when joined by soloists such as Alana Borza, who is particularly striking in the Spanish dance. In the final act at the lake, they cohere nicely as the swans and seem more confident in their use of the space.

The young man who dances the part of Siegfried, Yerkin Rakhmatullayev, performs with careful accuracy, but is no match for Floria and simply fails to convey the prince’s changing moods. His face remains at best expressionless, whether he is falling in love with first Odette and then Odille or supposedly grief-stricken at his inadvertent treachery. At worst, he simply looks too anxious, in particular when preparing to lift Odette/Odille.

Live music is performed by what appears to be a scratch orchestra – there is no information to be had about who they are, the names of individual players or indeed of the conductor. There are some fine players amongst them – notably the lead violinist, the timpanist and the harpist. But as an orchestra they seem very poorly rehearsed. Some players are repeatedly out of tune or mistime their entries, and there are some unpleasantly sharp sounds from the wind and brass players. It is a tense experience listening to them.

The set and costumes for this touring production are understandably basic. But it’s disappointing that they look nothing like the magnificent ones pictured in the programme. The lighting design in minimal. It’s not nearly strong enough, the spot lights frequently seem miscued and the supposed storm is particularly feeble.

Marina Medvetskaya is artistic director of Nerubashenko Ballet, which is billed as being in collaboration with International Classic Ballet. Medvetskaya is also the artistic director of International Classic Ballet which is currently touring a different set of venues with an uncannily similar programme – kissing cousins, perhaps?

Runs until 13 January 2023 then tours

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