Review: Moscow City Ballet in Swan Lake, York Barbican

First published in Theatre by

In the middle of a punishing three-month tour of England, with four productions in their repertory, it is astonishing that the dancers of Moscow City Ballet can still bring freshness to old chestnuts like Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

York might have hoped for something slightly off the beaten track, like Romeo and Juliet (coming to Bradford in March). Yet Sunday’s performance was alive with an enthusiasm that will have quickly rejuvenated any jaded palates in the audience.

The corps de ballet, numbering as many as 22, took time to adjust to the Barbican’s relatively shallow stage. Jumps had to be very tightly executed.

There was barely room for props, with a permanently moonlit lake filling the huge, unvarying backdrop. But Liliya Orekhova’s Odette forced us to forget all that.

So slightly built that you wondered where she stored her energy, yet she was extremely balanced, very still en pointe and combining smoothly with Talgat Kozhabaev’s Prince.

There was little chemistry between them, though he responded to the warmth she brought to her Odile after a markedly icy Odette.

He was competent rather than appealing, a little heavy in his solos, in contrast to Daniil Orlov’s lithe, expressive Von Rothbart and Kanat Nadyrbek’s engaging Benno. The cygnets’ pas de quatre ran like clockwork, a predictable highlight, and the polish was outstanding among the Act 3 bridal groups.

Though the electronic harp-replacement was a disappointment, Igor Shavruk’s 30-piece orchestra concentrated well. Great to have classical ballet back in town.

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