Swan Lake, Coliseum, London
Carmen, Sadler's Wells, London

Feathers fly – and so does the hero

As a production of a 19th-century classic, American Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake is bonkers. As a night out, it's a surprisingly good time. The dancers smilingly take whatever Kevin McKenzie's production throws at them – and this first night also had David Hallberg's heartfelt, nobly danced hero.

ABT open Spring Dance at the London Coliseum, the West End season by Sadler's Wells. The Coliseum's bigger stage suits this company's expansive dancing; peasants and courtiers are confident and lively, projecting boldly.

Tinkering with Swan Lake is widespread, particularly in the male roles. Company director McKenzie takes this to new levels, doubling the role of von Rothbart, the villainous magician who turns the heroine into a swan. Vitali Krauchenka is the mime von Rothbart, sweeping about in a green cloak. Marcelo Gomes is the second, more dancey version. In the ballroom scene, he turns up in thigh-high purple boots, seducing all the spare princesses. This makes no dramatic sense; his turn upstages Odile, the heroine's wicked double, whose seductive virtuosity is the point of this act. That said, Gomes has wicked amounts of fun.

McKenzie leaves the most famous dance set-pieces pretty much intact, but gets unfortunately inventive elsewhere, moving the corps de ballet in random groups that don't add up to a stage picture. Zack Brown's designs are attractive in a magpie way: impressionist front-cloth, conventional fairy-tale court, a Brothers Grimm lakeside. Costumes are stylised, pretty 16th-century, but why put the male peasantry in Lycra lederhosen?

In the double ballerina role, Michele Wiles is lucid, but I don't know who her Swan Queen is. She has just one touch of vulnerability, moved when the prince swears he loves her. Her Odile is strong but lacks individuality. As her prince, David Hallberg lifts matters into another league. His dancing is clean, alert, with beautiful jumps. McKenzie's production may not be sure what Swan Lake is about, but Hallberg brings the fairy tale to life.

Antonio Gades's flamenco Carmen is now 25 years old. It's easy to see why it has endured. Apart from the draw of that story, Gades's choreography is well structured, with strong set-pieces. Yet this performance, part of the Sadler's Wells Flamenco Festival, has slackened; the company are fast but rarely fierce.

Gades created his Carmen as a film with Carlos Saura. As a flamenco company work on a production of Carmen, the story's emotions spill over into real life, leading to jealousy and murder among the cast. Gades's stage version has stayed in his company's repertory. Carmen is danced by Stella Arauzo, who also became director of the company after Gades's death in 2004.

The dancers are in rehearsal costume, with flamenco musicians sitting to one side. Sections of Bizet's opera are played on tape, sometimes the music they're rehearsing to, soon becoming the soundtrack for their own dramas. The dancing starts with massed, unison flamenco. The whole company drive forwards, stamping out the same beat; effective, but weakened by the dancers' blank torsos.

Some scenes are still striking. Arauzo is a strong presence, an uncompromising woman in red, particularly good in the quarrel scenes.

But the performance gets weaker. The big crises, jealousy and death, suffer most. This Carmen still has vigour, but it must once have been bolder, more raw, more powerful.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine