DANCE : Get out your binoculars, it's bird-watching season

IF TCHAIKOVSKY were a commodity on the world markets, now would be the time to buy. Here we are, barely out of the nutcracking season, and it's Swan Lake here, Swan Lake there: at the Royal Opera House with girl swans, at the Piccadilly with boys, and next, I hear, in the round with a cast of zillions at the Albert Hall. The question is not wherefore Tchaikovsky (the music speaks for itself), but whether a slender scenario about a prince's obsession with a large white bird can sustain so many interpretations.

Last week offered a prime chance to test the continuing potency of Matthew Bourne's radically re-thought version for Adventures in Motion Pictures, with the arrival in the avarian lead of Simon Cooper - the elder brother of Adam, who created the role last year. Two hundred performances on, the show's impact is as devastating as ever - owing to the almost nightly attendance of the director, whose assiduous attention to detail keeps the steps clean and lucid, the drama tightly focused, and humorous licence more or less in check. Can any other West End show claim such regular maintenance?

Yet misconceptions about "the male Swan Lake" persist, mostly among those seeking some excuse for not having got around to seeing it. Bourne emphatically did not set out to cock a snook at a classic ballet, nor to impose a gay reading of the text. He simply opened his ears to Tchaikovsky's work - music so compellingly original, so pregnant with dark drama left unexplored by Petipa and Ivanov's 19th-century ballet, that it begged to be re-imagined. Thus fairy story becomes all-too-human story. Mixed-up youth seeks solace in ornithological fantasy, whose core image is of a powerful swan lifting and enfolding the man in its wings. So simple, so universal. The tear- stained faces that emerge nightly from the Piccadilly bear witness to a combined dramatic and musical truth. It's all there in the score.

As for Simon Cooper, it takes exceptional pluck to step into your kid brother's feathered trews. Taller, leaner, and just a mite more brutish than Adam, Simon (on lease from Rambert) is arresting in all the same ways. He shares with his sibling a magnificent leap and a cultivated sense of animal savageness, but has even more impressive muscular control of what one can only call his enormous wingspan. Likewise, coming on-stage like Eric Cantona with an ugly-mug smirk in the Act III leather- clad party, he scared the lights out of me

But it's the Prince, not the Swan, who is the emotional centre of the piece. And unlike classical versions, in which Siegfried's yearning can only be conveyed by a spot of distracted gazing between set dances, Bourne's version wastes not a millisecond of stage time in spelling out the Freudian coordinates of his tragedy. Nympho mother, unmothered son and jealous courtier equal emotional torture. It's largely due to the subtlety of Scott Ambler's acting that we identify so feelingly with the strange, yet also strangely familiar, scenario. The love that dares not speak its name is just one species removed.

Yet there will always be a place for productions such as the Royal Ballet's current Swan Lake. You have to accept the creakiness of the swan-maiden plot, the constant interruptions for curtseys, the initial feeling that if it weren't for the music, you might have wandered into any old ballet. You accept all these things for pure ravishment of the eye. The abstract nature of the swan scenes challenges classical movement quite as much as contemporary dance, and at its best the corps ceases to be lines of girls pretending to be swans. Instead, in Ivanov's spectacular patternings they become a sublime expression of all manner of miraculous symmetries of nature. The Royal does this to perfection.

By another stroke of symmetry Adam Cooper was scheduled to be dancing Siegfried at the Opera House while Simon Cooper danced the Swan down the road. Five broken bones in Adam's foot have put a stop to that, and the cast I saw had a much-slimmed Irek Mukhamedov doing the princely thing with Miyako Yoshida as Odette/Odile. The tiny Japanese ballerina has blossomed since her tentative company debut in the role a year ago, and now the muted tremulousness of her Odette is matched only by the most exquisite solo-violin pianissimo I have ever heard. Where the Russians found the yin in Tchaikovsky, Matthew Bourne finds the yang: see both Swan Lakes for the full picture.

AMP 'Swan Lake': Piccadilly, W1, 0171 3699 1734, to 1 Feb. Royal Ballet 'Swan Lake': ROH, WC2 , 0171 304 4000, in rep to 3 Feb.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

    £30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

    Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

    £34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

    Developer - WinForms, C#

    £280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism