Swan Lake, St Petersburg Classic Ballet, Storyhouse Chester

I've wanted to see Swan Lake for years and years, and over the weekend at Storyhouse I had my chance.

Presented by the St Petersburg Classic Ballet, Tchaikovsky's iconic music was brought to life for a couple of performances at the wonderful Chester venue.

We were sitting right at the top of the Gallery, which I have to admit was a perfect position from which to view a ballet - we could see all the formations and dances from above, but the layout and clever tiering at Storyhouse meant we didn't feel far from the action.

I also enjoyed being able to see straight into the orchestra pit, as when it comes to watching a ballet, the music is just as important as the movement.

Maybe the orchestra is where I will start: I was so impressed. The full orchestra created a wonderfully balanced sound and the familiar music filled the auditorium beautifully. I want to particularly mention the clarinet player, who had some brilliant lead moments.

There were also some standout dancers. As there's no cast list readily available, I'll just refer to the character names. The principle dancer in the role of Odette, or the Queen of the Swans, was breathtaking. Her movements looked effortless and her elegance was that which you'd imagine when you're a child thinking of a perfect, beautiful ballerina.

When it came to the male dancers, both the Jester and Baron Von Rothbart were danced superbly, topped off by their excellent costumes which only enhanced the dancing even more.

Despite these highlights, though, the performance felt a little unpolished, or unfinished. This was such a shame as the three of us all went with such high hopes ready to be completely blown away, and in fact we had a lovely afternoon but were left feeling a tiny bit flat about elements of the show.

One example that comes to mind is that the image I associate with Swan Lake is one of complete uniformity, and the elegance of the swans all moving as one. In Saturday's performance, the precision was there through the bodies, but there were a few dances where the heads of the dancers were then all at different angles. When you're expecting things to be so polished, details like that really stand out.

I also struggled to enjoy the dancing of Prince Siegfried, who came across as if he was marking - that is, going through the moves but at about 60% of full capacity. It was as if he was conserving his energy, doing beautiful leaps but then not finishing his moves fully. This had an impact in the final scene, where a combination of the slightly lacklustre feel of the Princes movements combined with slightly disappointing choreography didn't make it feel like a huge final battle, and I was baffled as to how the Prince could ever be considered to have won that duel!

The final slightly odd moment was the pause halfway through the first Act. The curtains came down for so long that people were wondering whether there was an early interval or if something had gone wrong. There was probably about four minutes with the curtain down and no orchestra, during which we could hear all the dancers moving around and what sounded like a bit of a clunky scene change.

Despite these moments, I did have a wonderful afternoon. I'm so pleased I've finally seen Swan Lake and most of the performance was absolutely beautiful. It's just a shame that those elements took away a little of the shine, making us feel like we'd seen the show at 90%, rather than a 100% polished performance.

Sophie x


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