When some friends said they wanted to go and see the ballet last Wednesday I was at least slightly apprehensive. Having ice-skated from a young age I had slipped my foot in a ballet shoe or two but my expertise do not stretch much further. However, with all of the hype around the intense ‘Black Swan’, a film that showed the beauty of ballet in such a way that one of my best friends had become fascinated with the art, I wanted to see if I could appreciate the Moscow City performance.
During the first few minutes the dancing seemed disappointingly amateur. We wondered if this could have been because of the younger cast, perhaps less precise and perfect than that performed by those with a few more years experience. Many seemed to be slipping or hopping instead of the presenting the clean, elegant finish which even I would expect to each move. Many of the dancing duets and trios failed to dance in time with each other or the music, distracting hugely from what could have been a beautiful portrayal of the celebrations expected from the birthday celebration of the male lead, Prince Siegfried. If the mistakes were so obvious to my untrained eye, it worried me to think what the experts would be saying. Then again, it’s easy to forget they are only human.
On the other hand, the Jester was played quite brilliantly. He acted with charm and humour and seemed to perform on a different level entirely to the rest of the cast. He was never out of character and seemed quite clearly to be the favourite of the first act.
I thought that I might have a little trouble understanding the story being portrayed by the ballerinas, as it always seems so much easier to watch plays or musical where the vocals tell the story for you. However, admittedly having done some research beforehand, I found the storyline fairly simple to follow – suggesting huge credit for the dancers’ mute acting.
Luckily the cast soon seemed to get their act together, and to my eye they began to perform like the coordinated and professional cast it was clear they had the potential to be. When the swans appeared on stage it was obvious that this was the part of the afternoon that the whole audience had been waiting for. The swans performed in formations that were perfectly synchronised, with each ballerina playing the part beautifully.
But it was the performance of the female lead Princess Odette, who had been cursed to be swan by day and woman by night, who really took the audiences’ breath away. With an elegant physique and arms that never seemed to end, she was perfect for the role as she gracefully swept her arms up and down in character. Her transition between Princess Odette and the evil von Rothbart’s daughter Odile is outstanding as her forced smile provides an eerie and haunting character completely different to her pure portrayal of the swan princess.
Unfortunately the Prince Siegfried was no match for his female lead. Despite having the strength and manly stance appropriate for such a prince, the emotion portrayed did not seem to the same standard as his princess. His purpose seemed just to be an apparatus for the petit dancer to place herself around, and if it was then he served it very well but we all felt his individual performance could have been stronger.
The highlight of his performance seemed to be the final act, when the pair finally seemed to fit as the romantic duo, as they sacrificed themselves to the lake to be freed from the evil villain when they realise they can never break the curse and be together. As the pair fall to the ground at the back of the stage and disappear behind the formations of the other swans I could have sworn the woman in the seat next to me had a tear in her eye. The whole story seems to have had far more of an impact on her than on me, but then she did seem like a much more regular ballet-goer.
Overall I actually quite enjoyed the performance. The soothing music could have sent me to sleep but the dramatic dances sorted that out in a second and as the cast were much improved after the first act we felt that they had performed brilliantly. The dancers’ stamina, strength and flexibility were incredible and above everything else I had utter admiration for how controlled and graceful the dancers managed to be. I don’t think I will become a regular ballet-goer anytime soon, but watching the dancers was a very refreshing change and I would recommend those seeking to do something different to book yourselves in for a show – it was quite stunning.