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Subject: "Review: ENB Swan Lake, Royal Albert Hall" Archived thread - Read only
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16-06-02, 11:18 AM (GMT)
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"Review: ENB Swan Lake, Royal Albert Hall"
ENB Swan Lake
London, Royal Albert Hall

The English National Ballet (ENB) arena Swan Lake is all about entertainment and spectacle. It sells well and there were coaches outside and entire extended families bumbling in, such is the pulling power.

Part of Swan Lake's power is a large corps all in white tutus and acting in unison and if 24 or so ballerinas look impressive in 'normal' productions why shouldn't 64 look so much more impressive? Well they do and without a doubt the strongest part of this production is the corps. They are well drilled (even on opening night) and if you sit away and up a little you can't really fail to be impressed and moved by them. Well I can't anyway.

The lack of a normal theatre's proscenium arch worries many regulars and to cover the large stage many of the dances are multiplied up x2 or x4. There is a lot going on and none of it is framed. Our eyes aren't adjusted to this way of looking at dance and they do wander at times amongst the riot of bodies. But I suspect most in the audience don't see any distinctions or complications and just enjoy it - judged by the buzz on the way out. And hopefully they will return to see other productions too - and not be put off by the regimented traditional view in a theatre!

I don't really have any misgivings about 'in the round' productions but the choreography here is pretty thin at times and the opening act with all its partying seems too long and tedious. Howeevr it was Derek Deane's first piece at this scale and overall it works well enough for the dancers, costumes and set pieces to rise above.

Raymond Gubbay puts ENB on at the Albert Hall and it was deemed appropriate to have some Russians flown in to open the run and add 'proper' ballet glamour and encourage more BOS (Bums on Seats). It was a strange coupling of Serge Filin from the Bolshoi and Svetlana Zakharova from the Kirov and they looked unbalanced and unfamiliar with each other and the production. Ideally she needs a taller partner (like Zelensky who was originally planned) though Filin is very well-schooled and quietly noble. Zakharova, though, does arrest you and has that distant ethereal allure of a high caste ballerina temporarily put down on earth. Rather like Lopatkina she has the most soft willowy arms which are so expressive you ache at their delicacy. The strange thing however was the act 3 fouettes (32 number) which I've never seen done so aggressively. It was like seeing somebody pump iron in the gym and about as alluring. Kind of impressive but to no particular end and out of kilter with the sophistication elsewhere.

On Friday night I saw Daria Klimentova and Dmitri Gruzdyev - a rather more together and balanced couple. Daria, Russian trained, strong technique, has however absorbed more English traditions and is a warmer, more human and fallible Odette/Odile. There were double fouettes too! Gruzdyev is an imposing prince and looked particularly impressive in the great leaping circuit of the stage where for once the choreography has the space it needs and looks the better for it.

On both occasions Gary Avis was Rothbart - played with evil scary reverence - excellent. Simone Clarke and Yat sang Chang danced the Neapolitan with the panache we've come to expect but the whole company, augmented as it is, looks pretty strong at the moment. Nice to see Zakharova but Skoog knows the company can do for itself.

I know from my own excursions over the years that where you sit in the Albert Hall rather matters. High up and you are too far away really, though the patterns are nice, too near and the dancers on the edge of the stage block your view of the action in the middle. The optimum I think is in the stalls anywhere from 6 rows back to the boxes. While it is in the round there is an axis and sitting opposite the orchestra is best. If you can get a seat next to the aisle in entrance K you may be in seventh heaven as dancers hurtle by you making their entrances and exits. Thrilling stuff.

Personally I'm glad ENB do the Albert Hall gigs. They please many and seeing dancers move from any angle is a great thing that too few know the pleasure of as it is. There should be more in the round and I don't see why it can't be just as artistically valid as dancing in the square.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Review: ENB Swan Lake, Royal Albert Hall Bruceadmin 16-06-02 1
     RE: Review: ENB Swan Lake, Royal Albert Hall AnnWilliams 24-06-02 2

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16-06-02, 11:47 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Bruce Click to send private message to Bruce Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
1. "RE: Review: ENB Swan Lake, Royal Albert Hall"
In response to message #0
   LAST EDITED ON 16-06-02 AT 08:09 PM (GMT)

We have another thread talking about this production at:

And Daria Klimentova just sent me this picture taken after her performance on Friday...

And some from rehearsal too...

Svetalan Zakharova and Sergei Filin

We are blessed with good photographs of the ENB Swan Lake at the moment - some from the excellent John Ross have just come in - more later!

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24-06-02, 02:43 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail AnnWilliams Click to send private message to AnnWilliams Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
2. "RE: Review: ENB Swan Lake, Royal Albert Hall"
In response to message #1
   Arriving exactly on time for the opening act of ENB's 'Swan Lake' at the Royal Albert Hall last week didn't save me from being banished to the gallery in the far upper reaches of that vast hall for most of the first act. My stalls seat, it transpired, was only reachable through a doorway being used as an access point for the performers, who were already lined up, exotically costumed and nervously awaiting their entrances amid a clutter of water bottles and tissue-boxes. As it turned out, this early crows' nest view of the proceedings worked to my advantage- it gave me a useful overview of this Derek Deane production and a unique opportunity to see how the floor patterns worked.

I'm not clear how much - if any - of this production has been changed since Dean's departurea as ENB's AD, and how much should be credited his his replacement, Matz Skoog, but I'd say on it's present form it is an enormous credit to both. It works on most levels. It uses every last inch of the RAH's huge round arena to show off the sixty swans to dazzling advantage, their arms/wings beating in beautiful synchronisation under the sympathetic baton of Martin West, ENB' s orchestra conductor, whilst managing to retain enough of the intimacy of a conventional proscenium production to make it emotionally engaging.

From on high, the corps patterns looked thrilling and made beautiful sense. From on high too it was interesting that Jan-Erik Wikstrom's Siegfried looked both more graceful and more athletic than it did later from a more grounded view (not to say that Wikstrom's performance throughout lacked either grace or athleticism). His Act I solo in particular was beautiful, with remarkably soft and fluent use of arms and cleanly sculpted jumps.

Arriving in Act II, Kristin Long - a guest from San Francisco Ballet replacing Monica Perego - makes a subtle Odette/Odile - not stunning technically but very strong on the emotional centre of the ballet - she was a touchingly vulnerable Odette and a glacially smiling, glamorous Odile. But there was little chemistry between her and Wikstrom, as good as they both were individually - perhaps lack of rehearsal time is to blame. Full credit to them both, though, for heartfelt acting - it must be difficult to remember to 'act' as well as just perform in such a huge and impersonal arena, and I never felt cheated here.

Gary Avis, unidentifiable under a face mask , made a splendid Rothbart, sweeping so powerfully round the huge RAH space that it looked as if his mighty 'wings' might really lift him into the air without the aid of wires. His dramatic presence, though, added real ballast to the performance - every time he appeared there was a notable frisson in the audience.

My proper seat, when I finally got to it, was on the end of a row very close to the stage, but despite this I found it difficult to identify any of the non-principal dancers apart from the sparkling partnership of Simone Clarke and Yat-Sen Chang in the Neapolitan Dance. I'll just say that I loved the gutsy and committed way all the character dances were performed. The clicking heels of - is it the Czardas or the Mazurka? - always thrills me, and I loved Peter Farmer's designs for the national dancers' costumes - I noted on the back of my cast sheet that the 'Mazurka girls' gorgeous costumes could have been worn at Ascot. Big plumed hats etc.' (how I'd love a decent excuse to wear a big plumed hat!.)

My end-of-row seat brought a few unexpected thrills. Principals, soloists and corps dancers had to make their entrances and exits brushing past my left shoulder - Gary Avis' rustling wings literally blew my cast sheet out of my hands. I could see that Kristin Long remained impressively in character as the soulful Swan Queen every time she left her enchanted kingdom to rush up the steps and out into the everyday reality of the ice-cream sellers and well-worn carpets of the RAH's corridors. Quite a feat.

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