Arts Review - Swan Lake, Moscow City Ballet, York Barbican Centre

Jo Haywood reviews Swan Lake performed by the Moscow City Ballet at York Barbican Centre

The controversial ballet blockbuster Black Swan caused a bit of a flap in cinemas last year, with critics and audiences honking and squawking about its highs and lows (of which there were plenty). Some loved it, some hated it, but everyone had an opinion.

Moscow City Ballet’s latest touring production, however, is more of a muted Swan Lake (presumably populated my mute swans), greeted in York by a sparsely populated crowd – the cavernous Barbican Centre was barely half full – who reacted to each balletic sequence with a ripple of polite applause.

It’s not that the show was bad – far from it – it just lacked a little lustre. The principles, particularly Odette/Odile, were excellent, with the ethereal beauty of the white swan and the malice of the black shown to great effect. But too many of the scenes fell a little flat, while others felt overly repetitive.

Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score was played with immense skill by the ballet’s touring orchestra, who underlined the intensity, drama and beauty of this classical Russian jewel with wondrous changes of mood and pitch.

Unfortunately, however, they weren’t helped by the acoustics, which meant the overall sound was far too muted, and occasionally over-powered by the sound of 20 swans’ ballet flippers’ hitting the stage en masse. And, if the truth be told, a number of the musicians looked a little tired in the second half, peppering the score with yawns, stretches and the odd shut eye here and there.

But perhaps this was just an off night. After all, the company’s previous touring season in the UK received excellent reviews and included some sell-out performances.

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This Swan Lake never really took flight, but there’s always next season.

Jo Haywood

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