DANCE / Odile is more than just another ugly duckling

Cinderella / Swan Lake - Royal Opera House, London

Tragedy runs deep in Swan Lake, but the passing of a century has allowed small, amusingly modern aspects of tragedy to emerge. Take the unofficial party laid on for Prince Siegfried's coming-of-age: first his mother turns up and, as if that wasn't embarrassing enough, she then makes Siegfried agree to choose a bride the following evening. How fortunate that the Royal Ballet is, at present, blessed with plenty of dancers to whom historical character acting comes as naturally as a split arabesque.

As the company's opening-night Siegfried, Zoltn Solymosi slipped effortlessly into his role as troubled prince of a bygone era, while Sandra Conley, as his mother, swished into right royal focus as if born to it.

But on the tragedy front, Siegfried's initial plight is trivial compared to what Swan Lake's Odette - Darcey Bussell's first major role in a season which she has mostly spent recuperating after her ankle operation - must endure. Transformed from princessto swan maiden by the evil Von Rothbart, and assuming human form only between midnight and dawn, Odette is condemned to spend the rest of her life as a swan unless Von Rothbart's spell is broken by a promise of eternal love.

Anti-ballet feminists reserve a special loathing for Swan Lake: Odette's fate depends, ultimately, on the actions of two men who, naturally, seek to own her. But Odette's reliance on one man (Siegfried) to break the spell of another (Von Rothbart) seems no more tragic than the brevity of Siegfried's first - and doomed - experience of love.

And while ballet has always been a target for crude feminist analysis - the virgin-whore analogy can so readily be slapped on to Odette-Odile - but the white swan maiden is far more than a metaphor for passive sexuality, just as the black swan (Odile) isn't merely a vampish seductress controlled by Von Rothbart. As Balanchine said, put 16 girls on stage and it's everybody - it's the world; but put 16 men there and it's nobody. In Swan Lake we see women whose mental power is a disarming weapon. Thus the ballet's larger tragedy afflicts Siegfried and is most poignantly effective during the ballroom scene, when the Prince is duped into making a vow of marriage to Odile; and beside the enchanted lake of Inanov's Act IV, where he must come to terms with thefact that he has destroyed Odette's chance of freedom for ever, and so elects to be united in death with her.

This revival of Anthony Dowell's 1987 production, an elegant staging in which long-lost choreographic aspects of the 1895 Ivanov-Petipa St Petersberg version have been restored, is absolutely driven by the essential tragedy of the ballet's scenario. And Bussell and Solymosi home in on all the exquisite melancholy ofTchaikovsky's score. If Busselllooked initially and uncharacteristically wary, she proved back on sparkling form as Odile, demonstrating the speed, attack and assurance required. Bewitched byher charms, Solymosi fell on his knees and, in a convincing display of infatuation, buried his head in her tutu. But while the flamboyance of his gestures has an old-school, Soviet flavour, he makes the mistake of enlarging his gestures in the solo variations where he should be throwing himself into phrases of large, space-consuming movement.

Solymosi's tendency to contain his dance energy for the ballet's punishing solos is logical - but he doesn't stop saving himself when it is time to let rip. In contrast, William Trevitt, who recently made his debut as the Prince in Ashton's Cinderella, immerses himself in his role, handsomely partnering Nicola Roberts' unworldly Cinderella. Trevitt tackles the stylistic challenges of Ashton's choreography without holding back and without losing track of place and event, making the most heroic of leaps seem no more (or less) important than a princely look or gesture. As Cinderella's step-sisters, Ashley Page and Iain Webb threaten to hijack the ballet with their petty squabbles, but neither resorts to cheap attention-seeking ta ctics. If Page's interpretation is the more finely judged, Webb, trussed up in a pram-hood bonnet turns out to be an equally likeable hag on the make.

n `Swan Lake', 16, 19 Jan; `Cinderella', 14 Jan. Box-office 071- 304 4000.

Sophie Constanti

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders