“Swan Lake is the most difficult thing to portray for a female ballet dancer; it really requires such specific qualities of articulation, agility, strength and the arm work is something that takes a lot of training.” Benjamin Millepied, Choreographer
My cultural experiences have certainly gone from one extreme to another from last week to this, from Mike Tyson and his warts and all exposé in his one man show ‘Undisputed Truth’ to Swan Lake performed by the Moscow City Ballet at the Emirates Palace.
The Teenager, some friends and I all had a date with some men in white tights (complete with bulging dance belts, sorry it had to be said!) and ballerinas in beautiful tutus from Russia’s most successful touring dance company in their last performance at the stunning Emirates Palace theatre located in the hotels lower ground floor.
Accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, Swan Lake tells the story of Prince Siegfried, the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart and Odette, the Swan Queen over four acts. The teenager and I had previously seen the English National Ballets interpretation of Swan Lake a few years ago in London and I have to say that if my memory serves me correctly that rendition was better overall. To start with there was an orchestra and better acoustics, where as this performance had the score piped through speakers that were reverberating and distorting with the levels of sound going up and down to accommodate the problem. The constant tapping from the wooden tip of the pointe shoes is something I have never heard on a stage in all the previous ballet performances I have been to in the UK and apparently this was an issue last time this company came to Abu Dhabi and performed Sleeping Beauty here in 2012. Some comedic value was added by the wandering spotlight which was acting more like a search light sweeping the stage to find the right dancer that was supposed to be in the limelight.
All that aside, there is no denying that the dancing was impressive especially the swans and the prima ballerina Katerina Odarenko who played both Odette,the swan queen and also Odile, daughter of Von Rothbart, in act three. She was amazing, the shinning and graceful star in a sea of swans, her pirouettes were very impressive! Acts one and three were too long and dragged in my opinion but acts two and four were excellent. The swans were magnificent and the tussle in act four between the Prince and Von Rothbart, accompanied by the dramatic music building into its crescendo was delightful. The costumes were exquisite, especially the Swan Queen’s embellished white tutu and her half black/white costume.
As this is the 25th anniversary year of the Moscow City ballet, which was founded by soloist and choreographer Victor Smirnov-Golovanov (who passed away in April), the Emirates Palace staff wheeled on a congratulatory large cake complete with candles ablaze at the end of the performance. The prima ballerina pranced forward on her pointes, arms filled with her bouquet of flowers, to cut the cake but as I remarked to the teenager I don’t think any of the stick thin ballerinas would be indulging in that sweet treat, as they obviously live on a diet of thin air and tissues (received an eye-roll for that little gem). Luidmila Neroubashchenko, company artistic director and wife of the late Smirnov-Golovanov, came onto stage to rapturous applause from her company and the audience.
We had a lovely evening but I honestly did prefer the English National Ballet rendition but that does not detract from this show which had Moscow’s most talent classical dancers on stage but I think the venue, whilst stunning let them down in regards to stage, sound and lightning. My favourite ballet is still ‘The Nutcracker’ by the English National Ballet seen with the teenager when she was still a sweet little ballerina herself and a visit from Angelina Ballerina live on stage in the interval made her day!
Her opinion after the show, in true teenage fashion “It was good but too long, the valet here takes forever to get the car (first world problem) and I need to get home and wash my hair and do my french homework!” Such a little fun sucker!
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2013. All rights reserved.