Review: Swan Lake on Ice

Recommended
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A most entertaining modern interpretation of the classic

Swan Lake on Ice isn’t for the ballet regulars. They’ll frown at the alterations made by the choreographer Tony Mercer for this, his 2006 production for the Imperial Ice Stars. Firstly, Tchaikovsky’s music has been rearranged in places. Music from Act One unexpectedly appears in Act Three, for instance. Also, contemporary music is added too in two scenes.

Inevitably, this short two-hour ice-skating show (with interval) condenses the plot of the traditional four-act ballet. The narrative is reasonably successful in conveying the drama. However, it becomes slightly confusing during the climax of the ballroom scene when Prince Siegfried realises he has been duped by Odile. The storyline, which adheres mainly to the libretto of Petipa’s 1895 ballet classic created for the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg, has been slightly modified as well. The Black Swan Odile defies her father, the evil sorcerer Rothbart, and voluntarily gives up Prince Siegfried when she realises that he is really in love with the White Swan Odette who has been turned into a swan by his father’s curse. Not to mention, the traditional tragic ending of Swan Lake has been substituted with the happier one favoured by Soviet productions. Thus, Prince Siegfried kills Rothbart and releases Odette from her curse, allowing her to return to human form and live happily ever after with the Prince. Benno’s, the Prince’s friend, appearance in this show is interesting, since the character is absent in most ballet productions nowadays.

Ice skating has a much narrower vocabulary of steps than classical ballet. Nevertheless, the choreography is effective overall, especially in the exciting national dances in the ballroom scene. As expected, the virtuosic allegro steps are breathtaking. The dizzy gravity-defying spins, leaps and lifts are most spectacular and breathtaking. The choreography for the adagios is also quite satisfying. The use of wires for flying adds an ecstatic quality to the White Swan duet in Act Two and enhance the Georgian dance in the ballroom scene, which is quite breathtaking.

Unlike in traditional ballet, the white and black swans were performed by two different dancers instead of one. As Odette, Olga Sharutenko was more impressive technically than in expressiveness. Maria Mukhortova dazzled as Odile. The male leads made more of an impression. Bogdan Berezenko was handsome and gentle as Prince Siegfried. Benno was zestfully performed by Alexandr Kazakov. As a contrast, Yahor Maistrou was eye-catching as the evil Rothbart.

The sets and costumes are lavish too. Overall, whatever grumbles traditionalists might have, this is a most entertaining production and highly recommended. Kevin Ng

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