★★★ | Moscow City Ballet’s Swan Lake – Sheffield Lyceum and National Tour

It is a tidal wave of tights, tutus and tiaras in this presentation of one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballets, performed in typical traditional style by the Moscow City Ballet.

Telling the story of a Prince who finds his youth slipping away and being pressured into marriage, he meets and falls in love with Odette, Queen of the Swans, who is under a curse from which only true love can free her. But their love is thwarted by Von Rothbart when he tricks the Prince into being betrothed to another. When the Prince realises he has been a victim of such cruel treachery, he battles to save Odette from her curse.

Having not been overly impressed with my first visit to Moscow City Ballet (for their performance of The Nutcracker) I was not sure what to expect, but found that Swan Lake proved to be a more entertaining and gentile evening that I anticipated. The company as a whole were very talented, and the number of stumbles and heavy footed landings was significantly less than when I had seen them before. The dancers individually were all very talented and quite natural in their performances, and there is no denying the technical ability and suppleness of the cast, but when dancing as an ensemble, there were still some flaws in the performance, with the unison of the dancers not being as tight and synchronised as one would hope for and anticipate, especially from such a prestigious company.

That aside, the vivacious and playful score by Tchaikovsky sounded as vibrant as ever, and proved absorbing, especially during the first act. There were times when the ballet sparkled brightly, nowhere more evident than the sight of a sheer volume of swans and signets in the latter portion of the second act, which amounted to a fairly mesmerising vision. The tapestry based static set was functional and place the audience in mind of the time when this ballet was first performed; and the costumes were beautifully put together. There was a romantic pas de deux and the soloists portraying the potential suitors displaying their wares at the opening of Act 3 were quite captivating.

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For those seeking a traditionally presented ballet, then this version of Swan Lake is a safe bet and a pleasant evenings entertainment, albeit one which is let down to an extent by a lack of unison within the performance, which is a shame when compared to the tightly performed routines by companies such as Northern Ballet and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. However, there remain many aspects of the show to enjoy and it is an easy, accessible ballet which is more focussed on dance and performance than detailed narrative.

Further details can be found at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk and www.moscowcityballet.com/en