Swan Lake, Royal Albert Hall London

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The Independent Culture

Stagings in the round show off things normally hidden by curtains. In English National Ballet's Swan Lake, danced in the arena of the Royal Albert Hall, you can watch the dry ice thicken and spread in preparation for the lakeside acts, thick billows filling the oval stage. The drifting clouds become part of the spectacle.

Stagings in the round show off things normally hidden by curtains. In English National Ballet's Swan Lake, danced in the arena of the Royal Albert Hall, you can watch the dry ice thicken and spread in preparation for the lakeside acts, thick billows filling the oval stage. The drifting clouds become part of the spectacle.

Derek Deane's arena production is all spectacle. You don't go to this Swan Lake for lyricism. The story of the enchanted princess is in there somewhere, surrounded by large-scale additions: many more swans in the corps de ballet, jugglers and tumblers in the court acts. Critics are likely to bridle, remembering other Swan Lakes, but this makes a big, cheerful show.

Deane's expansions are sometimes adroit. He has 60 swans, but leaves most of the dancing to the 24 dancers of ENB's regular corps. They all rush on, with a rumble of pointe shoes. Then the extras frame the stage while the experienced dancers handle the tricky stuff. The last act is better integrated, and more successful. Deane's choreography sends all his swans sweeping down diagonals, huge simple floor patterns. This production makes its impact through scale.

The soloists have a harder time. When we get to the Swan Queen and her prince, it's as if they're dancing on a turntable. Deane keeps some of the traditional choreography, but his dancers keep turning to face new sections of the audience. The pas de deux loses its floor patterns, and much of its drama. We don't see Odette leaving the prince, returning to him, coming to trust him: they're both too busy rotating.

ENB's new Swan Queen is Polina Semionova, a young Russian. She's tall, long-limbed, with a pretty face. She uses her limbs well - strong, straight legs, touches of wildness in her arm movements. Her line doesn't always flow through the torso, and it's hard to project the drama in this difficult space. But she's at ease even on this huge stage. In the 32 fouettés of the Black Swan pas de deux, she doesn't just turn on the spot: as she spins, she keeps adjusting her focus, working her way round the auditorium. She can't make it dramatic, but she dances with bright confidence.

Roberto Bolle makes a blandly handsome prince. He's in demand as a partner for tall girls, but he's a blank stage presence. His slow first-act solo is efficiently danced, but doesn't suggest romantic yearning. He's better in the flashier dances of the Black Swan.

Other soloist roles get lost in the throng. The traditional first act has a setpiece pas de trois. It's still there, but it's done by four couples at once, all setting off down different angles of the stage. This is no longer a soloist's number: I noticed clean footwork, but not individual dancers. The double helping of cygnets has the same effect. English National Ballet are on clear, cheerful form, but this isn't the setting to show off dancing.

To 19 June (020-7838 3100)

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