Swan Lake, Royal Opera House, London
Carlos Acosta: Premieres Plus, Coliseum, London

There's no touching the Mariinsky corps for uniformity, while principal Lopatkina demonstrates the art of maturing into a role

If a classical actor's career trajectory is a lifelong ascent from Romeo to Lear through a line of princes, then a classical ballerina's resembles a running jump at a high wall, followed by several decades of hanging on by her fingernails.

The career-defining roles have to be tackled by her early twenties. And where does she go from there?

Uliana Lopatkina was fast-tracked to the rank of principal dancer when she graduated from the Vaganova Academy in 1991, and has been dancing Swan Lake for what must feel like her entire life. Just as the 50th anniversary of the Mariinsky's first visit to Britain is, you suspect, more significant for us than for a company that can trace its ancestry to Catherine the Great, so a Lopatkina Swan Lake, these days, is more significant for its audience than it is for her.

There is a greater calculation in her performance than there used to be, an experienced campaigner's sense of what must be fully rendered, and what can be merely sketched. So although the limbs still drift into their final, exquisite shapes with the dreamlike softness of snow settling on invisible slopes, the effect is less ethereal, and has more of the voluptuary about it.

In the Adagio, as she collapses backwards on to thin air, there is something almost post-coital about the way her back curls around Siegfried's rescuing arm. Not so much innocence awaking into love, this is a swan maiden who is sick and tired of both parts of her job description. In her version of the fairy tale it is Daniil Korsuntsev's personable but painfully earthbound Siegfried who is the fantasy object.

Despite her predatory glamour, Lopatkina's black swan is, if anything, less worldly, more weird – a clockwork bird transforming all Odette's flowing lines into a series of bright, sharp snapshots. It is a brilliantly conceived characterisation, but you slightly miss the Lopatkina who had made fewer decisions about the role, and was making more discoveries.

Around her the corps de ballet, the most enduring glory of the Mariinsky, was just as definitive, a miracle of synchronisation so perfect that it looked like a special effect – as if one dancer were reflected endlessly in a hall of mirrors. Truly awesome, but perhaps more eerie than enchanting.

One career choice for virtuoso dancers of a certain age is to don the hair shirt of contemporary dance and "new ballet", and embark on what might be called anti-vanity projects. But if Carlos Acosta: Premieres Plus is anything to go by, life after the grands jetés is a parched and hopeless wasteland. The nine short, occasionally indistinguishable works – by choreographers including Russell Maliphant, Kim Brandstrup and Acosta himself – convey not one iota of joy, no hint that any of this might be a source of pleasure, for onlooker or performer.

Even Maliphant's Two, which was a one-woman firework display when Sylvie Guillem first performed it, becomes a muscle-flexing trials of Atlas in Acosta's lugubrious hands. Adding to the gloom, he and his co-star, Zenaida Yanowsky, put themselves through their angst-ridden contortions in cone after cone of stark white light, pinning them from above, until you can't tell whether it's a dance performance or an alien abduction. Personally, I was longing for the mother ship to come and take me long before the end.

Next Week:

Clifford Bishop sings along to the Song of the City with Akademi Dance

Dance Choice

Adam Cooper slips and slides to thrilling effect in Singin' in the Rain, Chichester Festival Theatre's deliciously soggy staging of the Hollywood musical. Cooper is aided by a terrific cast, Jonathan Church's zippy direction, and an indestructible score. Showstoppers include "Good Morning" and the title song (to 10 Sep).

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • 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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before