Reinventing Swan Lake is now an old tradition. We’ve had Matthew Bourne’s male swans, Mats Ek’s bald swans and Black Swan’s mad swan. Now Swan Lake Reloaded turns the enchanted swans into heroin-addicted prostitutes, with hip hop steps and sampled music. It’s a slick production, with some effective scenes but not much depth.
The show was created by Swedish choreographer Fredrik Rydman, a founder of the internationally successful Bounce Streetdance Company who had danced Ek’s version with the Cullberg Ballet. His choreography mixes streetdance, contemporary dance and glossy staging. Swan Lake Reloaded has been a hit in Sweden and across Germany, and certainly brings a younger audience into the London Coliseum.
The swans huddle in white fur coats and high-heeled boots, bursting into dance after being given drugs then retreating into twitches as the high wears off. As an image of entrapment, the drug theme works. Rather than a wicked magician, Daniel Koivunen’s greasy, leather-clad Rothbart is a violent pimp, controlling his swans for financial gain. Maria Andersson’s touching Odette paws at her own body in a withdrawal dance. Lighting designers Linus Fellbom and Emma Westerburg project insects onto her flailing limbs: her skin is visibly crawling.
The music cuts between pop songs and Tchaikovsky’s original score, sometimes sampled or distorted to reflect the woozy world of the addicted swans. Rydman has fun with some of the most famous numbers. The swans lie down for the cygnets’ dance, wiggling their toes. The famous 32 fouetté turns become hip hop headspins, danced by Fredrik “Kaos” Wentzel. As the prince, Robert Malmborg makes an endearingly goofy declaration of love to Tchaikovsky’s lyrical harp lines, skipping besottedly.
These are clever moments, but Rydman’s choreography is often generic. His bouncy streetdancing court miss the edge of the best hip hop dancing. On stage, the ZooNation or Boy Blue companies show hip hop dancing with more juice, and bolder storytelling.
Traditional stagings can also play havoc with Tchaikovsky. The Bolshoi Ballet’s new production of The Sleeping Beauty, seen for the first time outside Russia, has some staggeringly unmusical cuts. Yuri Grigorovich’s staging is opulent and superficial. Ezio Frigerio’s spectacular, architectural scenery drips with gold, while Grigorovich fiddles with the storytelling and with Petipa’s gorgeous choreography. Still, Ekaterina Krysanova is a buoyant heroine, sailing through the demanding Rose Adagio and floating through the Vision scene in long, soft phrases.
Swan Lake Reloaded runs until 10 August. Box office 020 7845 9300.