Review: English National Ballet’s production of Swan Lake, Bristol Hippodrome

Swan Lake

Swan Lake - Credit: Archant

Swan Lake. We know the music, we know the iconic imagery of the beautiful ballerina dressed as a swan, but I’m guessing that without reading the libretto in the program, most people don’t know the story. Which is why the audience relies on the dancers to tell us.

The English National Ballet is staging a full-on production of Swan Lake with seemingly their whole company dancing Derek Deane’s adaptation of Maurice Petipa’s original choreography and an orchestra so large that at Bristol’s Hippodrome theatre, the double bases are encroaching on the audience sitting in the front row of the stalls. But do all of these hard working artistes tell the story? Are we, as an audience rooting for the star-crossed lovers? Are we caught up in the tragedy? Acting is a surprisingly important part of being a ballet dancer, and whilst Erina Takehashi in the roles of Odette and Odile gives both heart-breaking desperation and devious cunning, Francesco Gabriele Frola as Prince Seigfried shows little or no passion, certainly not enough to convince us of the highly dramatic narrative.

Technically, however, all the principles impress, with Takehashi tackling Swan Lake’s famous 32 fouettes with ease.

But it is the Corps de Ballet that are the stars of this show. Act 2 and Act 4 are a marvel of graceful coordination and artistry. The precision of every line of Swans, the exact duplication of the sorrowful tilt of their heads and the angles of their wrists and ankles becomes breathtakingly moving on such a large scale.

To find out more, visit the English National Ballet website here.