Swan Lake is bread and butter to ballet companies; most need a production of the world's favourite ballet. English National Ballet has two. There's Derek Deane's gargantuan arena production, with sixty swans and extra jugglers, shown everywhere from the Royal Albert Hall to a stage on a lake at Versailles. This second version, created for proscenium theatres, is a beautifully lucid staging.
This production's greatest virtue is its simplicity. Producers are always ready to have bright ideas about Swan Lake: frantic bustle at the Royal Ballet, Freudian baggage at the Paris Opéra, awful choreography at the Bolshoi. English National Ballet's smaller production is handsome, direct and danced with clarity.
Creating it, Deane went back to the Royal Ballet stagings he grew up with – even including the extra dances created by Frederick Ashton. The drama is well-paced, the dancing polished. It creates a world on stage.
Michael Coleman is enchanting in the small role of the Prince's Tutor, a sweet-tempered dodderer who stays well clear of caricature.
Peter Farmer's sets are spacious and uncluttered. The lake, framed by trees, leaves plenty of room for moonlight and dancing. Farmer's costumes are among his best for ballet, with clean lines and enough decoration for richness.
At this matinee performance, the enchanted Swan Queen was danced by Asta Bazeviciute. A Lithuanian dancer who came to prominence with Birmingham Royal Ballet, she's a long-limbed, sometimes cool performer. Here, her dancing is cleanly phrased, with a nice contrast between the lyricism of Odette and the bolder attack of her wicked double Odile. She also shows a new sense of drama.
Her Prince was Zhanat Atymtayev, a young Kazakhstan-born dancer who joined ENB in 2006. He has a high, clean jump, particularly fine in tours en l'air, and makes an attentive partner. Neither is the boldest actor in the world, but the story is told clearly and touchingly.
It's the same with the rest of this cast. The peasant and national dances are appealingly buoyant, while courtiers have a smoother elegance. Steps are neatly shaped. The corps of swans flock on with assurance. In a world full of Swan Lakes, this one is confident, assured and admirable.
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