BalletDanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

Northern Ballet: Swan Lake – The Grand, Leeds

Choreography &Costume Design: David Nixon
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestration: John Langstaff
Conductor: John Pryce-Jones
Reviewer: Rich Jevons


As the centrepiece of Northern Ballet’s revival of the scintillating and sensual Swan Lake, Tobias Batley as Anthony is not merely masterful, but allows his movement to display a whole gamut of emotions: grief and guilt over the drowning of his brother in the local lake; desire for Odette, the mystical swan-like creature and her version incarnate Odilia; rivalry and confused sexuality with his best friend Simon; and, of course, a melancholic romanticism that makes David Nixon’s take on Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet score so sublime.

Nicola Gervasi as Simon really plays up to the latent homosexuality between him and Anthony, and the potential for a three-in-a-bed romp never seems far away. Martha Leebolt as the idealised Odette is blisteringly beautiful, her every movement full of lush gracious gentility and a perfect depiction of female sensuality and sexuality. That she is also a mirror reflection of Anthony’s lost brother adds further ambiguity to her role.

Ayama Miyata as Odilia displays the same dexterity and delicious dalliance while being firmly earthly, firstly Anthony’s friend, later his wife. She is mystified by his obsession with the lake and the symbolic swan, to the extent that she practically gives up on him. Pippa Moore as Anthony’s mother regrets her initial placing of blame for the lakeside tragedy realising how it has left a sore spot in his adult life, but she is shocked by Simon’s sexual advances to her son and relieved that Odilia may calm his errant passions.

Dave Gillan’s set is simply sublime, with the reeds forming a foreground behind which the swans at one point bob up and down with a touching grace. The final act’s water feature, cloth inflated and shone through with pure aquamarine aquatic light, really invokes the otherworldliness of the scene. David Nixon’s costumes are also simply brilliant, from the belle epoch tails and gowns, to the swans’ virginal feathery lightness, they serve as essential cyphers for their characters’ moods and states.

The Northern Ballet Sinfonia succeeds in bringing the beauty and pure power of Tchaikovsky’s score with painstaking and exacting excellence. For those who have followed Northern Ballet for some three decades, this is the icing on the cake; for newcomers it is an enchanting portion of simple sweetness. It is bound to both please and to a certain extent perplex, with its playfulness and inherent complexity.

Touring Nationwide | Image: Emma Kauldhar

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  1. This is not suitable for young children and should be made clear from the offset. Nor is it the normal Swan Lake story that we know and love. The excuse is that there are different ‘interpretations’ of the ballet. David Nixon interpreted it as a coming out tale and is a homo-erotic version. The Swan (Odette) is a metaphor for being yourself. There is a child’s death, a gay sex scene, some strapping lads stripped off to their pants and it’s all the overbearing mother’s fault!

  2. Absolute garbage from begining to end – Where on earth did the Gay Man story ever come near Swan Lake ?? Avoid at all costs

  3. Really disappointed that this was not the real Swan Lake story. Very homo-erotic and not suitable for children really.

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