Many would argue, though, that the real stars of Swan Lake are the corps de ballet, on whose precise coordination the success of any production really hinges.
On opening night, the Russian-LIthuanian Principal Jurgita Dronina, who joined the company in 2017, performed the lead role of Odette/Odile. Dronina is an expressive dancer, especially in her use of upper body as both white and black swan. Her Odette is far from the timid and shy character of more common interpretations, and instead Dronina depicts her as quietly flirtatious, fluttering her lashes and flapping her arms, keen to charm her Prince (Isaac Hernández) before the evil magician von Rothbart discovers them.
Technically Dronina is secure, turning out all of Act III’s technical demands with ease, including the 32 fouettés; however, holding her arabesque for longer when en pointe (as both characters) in the numerous balances would have enhanced her appeal.
Isaac Hernández’s Siegfried is a flamboyant and boyish Prince in Act I, wearing his heart on his embellished sleeve, clearly reluctant to commit to any of his potential brides. His early solo still suffers slightly from a lack of control, but as he races around the stage he still lands his jumps with remarkable neatness.
Dronina was at her most captivating in the Black Swan section, her Odile exuding all the fire and sass one could wish for.
Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernández in ENB's Swan Lake, photo Laurent Liotardo
Her face is particularly expressive here and I enjoyed the way she appeared to be continually looking down her nose at Siegfried as she seduced him. The heavy, sad arms of Odette are forgotten and instead Odile uses her arms with authority and finesse. It’s a strong act for Hernández too, who instantly falls for Dronina’s charm before delivering a masterclass of majestic jetés in his solo.
The complaints of the evening sit with the choreography and staging choices that provide some disappointments. Unfamiliar with Deane’s production, I found some of the most famous parts of the score wasted on an empty stage, at the beginning of both Acts II and IV. Perhaps with Liam Scarlett’s new version for the Royal Ballet still so prominently in mind it is hard not to compare. James Streeter is particularly fine in character roles such as von Rothbart, but in this staging he is not given enough to do.
In addition, the climax of Act IV seemed a non-event. The musical build up in the score wasn’t matched by the action on stage, which lacked drama despite the best efforts of the graceful swans of the corps de ballet.
Although Deane’s Swan Lake is one that still sits well in ENB's repertoire, allowing for dynamic company performances, it is not without its quirks and occasional misfires that restrict some of the most emotionally powerful moments of Tchaikovsky’s score.
|What||English National Ballet, Swan Lake Review|
|Where||London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, , London , WC2N 4ES | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
03 Jan 19 – 13 Jan 19, 19:30 mats Sat, Sun, Thu 14:30 except Sun 13 at 14:00. No performance Mondays. Dur.: 2 hours 50 mins incl two intervals
|Website||Click here to book via the Coliseum|