English Youth Ballet
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Original Choreography: Marius Petipa
Adaptor: Janet Lewis
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
One of the most popular of full-length classical ballet, and technically most demanding, Swan Lake has been performed countless times by world-famous companies such the Bolshoi, Kirov, and The Royal Ballet. To dance the ballet, even in an adaptation, is a considerable challenge for a company of young dancers.
English Youth Ballet’s production is danced to Tchaikovsky’s original score, although cuts have been made, with the introduction of a prologue and set in the Marinsky Theatre in Imperial Russia in 1895. The Marinsky Ballet – whose dancers wear Degas-style dresses rather than the traditional tutu – are rehearsing for a performance of Swan Lake. Odette, one of the dancers, falls in love with Prince Sergei, son of the Tsar, to the fury of the tyrannical ballet director Von Rothbart, whose unpleasant machinations include manipulating his own daughter Odile in the hope that the Prince will fall for her.
Coached by a team of international principal artists, some of whom dance the leading roles, a certain standard of expertise is nevertheless called upon from the young dancers in other roles. Is it too much to ask? The answer would undoubtedly have been yes, were it not that, wisely, principal dancers are all highly skilled professionals. Nevertheless, the result is that the production as a whole is something of a hybrid, due in part to the use of very young dancers from local ballet schools who crowd the stage in some of the scenes. Delightful as this was for the proud parents and grandparents in the audience on Saturday evening, it is hardly surprising that it felt at times like an end of term performance.
In this instance – fine. Not only does it showcase budding talent but provides these young dancers with a unique opportunity. The downside is that it is not until after the interval that we are treated to a more traditional Swan Lake. There are some great performances from all three principal dancers. Samantha Camejo, who has danced in the ballet previously with English National Ballet, gives a sympathetic and heart-breaking interpretation of Odette the Swan Maiden, performing some amazing pirouettes at high speed and balancing en pointe without a wobble. Odile (her alter ego in the original, in Lewis’s adaptation a separate role) is danced by French dancer Claire Corruble whose skillful technique is showcased in the role although Corruble’s Odile is petulant rather than spiteful.
A really stunning performance by Scots-Italian dancer Mark Biocca as Prince Sergei. Often perceived as being in some sense a role supporting and underscoring the dancing of Odette/Odile, Biocca has a stage presence coupled with a technical brilliance that cannot be denied. His jumps and grandes jettees are superb, his elevation appears effortless. As the Prince’s friend Benno, Rupert Bond has a couple of great solos of his own while showing an understanding of the role throughout.
As the baddie of the piece, Baron von Rothbart, Steven Wheeler is suitably nasty, prowling through the earlier scenes and eerily menacing as his true colours are revealed in the second half.
Not to be taken too seriously, Lewis’s adaptation of one of the greatest of classical ballets provides a unique experience for aspiring young dancers.
Reviewed on Saturday 17th August 2019 | Image: Contributed