Australian Dance Reviews

St. Petersburg Ballet – Swan Lake

His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
August 6, 2013

By Esther van Baren.

St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre is a rare and unique classical ballet company that literally stands on its own feet. To the pointe, they are the only classical ballet company in the world that is completely independent of government financial aid and sponsorship funding.

There are 60 professional ballet artists in the company, all of whom have either graduated from the Vaganova Russian Ballet School or other significant Russian ballet schools. They are in such high demand all over the world that they perform 200 to 250 performances each year.

Direct to Perth from their recent tour in Johannesburg, South Africa, the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre performed one of the most famous and technically challenging ballets of all time, Swan Lake.

Credit must be given to Founding Director Konstantin Tachkin in adjusting his large company and sets to our beautiful, but small, stage at His Majesty’s Theatre. There were times when a dancer would subtly take a step back to allow more space for a soloist, or at times a dancer would be posing right up against the wing and one false move could have easily made a hand or foot disappear behind the curtain.

The sets and costumes were beautiful with a few unexpected, yet wonderful, effects adding to the feel and drama of the story.

St Petersburg Ballet. Irina Kolesnikova and Dmitri Akulinin

Irina Kolesnikova and Dmitri Akulinin of St. Petersburg Ballet as Odette and Prince Siegfried in ‘Swan Lake’ Act II.

The ballet was set in three acts with four scene changes. In Act I Scene Two, the audience was given a pleasant surprise as swans glided across the stage; the illusion of their reflection upon a water’s surface. Once the swans had glided across the stage they were then transformed into human form.

Another dramatic effect was in Act II Scene Three at Prince Siegfried’s coming of age ball when it was time for him to choose a wife. The Prince had made a vow of undying love to Odette in order to break the spell of the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. This spell kept her as a swan by day and human by night. Von Rothbart had disguised himself as a knight at the ball alongside his daughter Odile, the black swan, who disguised herself as the white swan Odette to deceive Prince Siegfried and make him break his vow. Behind the Queen was a window and through the window you could see a light revealing Odette flustering desperately trying to warn Prince Siegfried of their evil plan.

Prima Ballerina Irina Kolesnikova stole the show and was the highlight of the evening! The moment she stepped foot on the stage I was totally captivated and mesmerised by her. Unfortunately, Prince Siegfried, danced by Dmitri Akuliin, lacked a certain presence and passion and was no match to the intensity of Irina. Her whole body filled the music and she gave beyond 100 percent to absolutely everything she danced. She had such elegance, grace, beauty and passion; her whole body and soul surrendered to her dual roles as Odette/Odile.

Every company has their own version to the ending of Swan Lake. Sometimes they keep to the original ending where Prince Siegfried drowns in the lake or some companies have Odette and Prince Siegfried jumping off a cliff ending together in the sky. What was distinctive was the choice of black and white swans together at the end. It gave a visual depiction of the battle of good versus evil. As Prince Siegfried engaged in combat with Von Rothbart, he tore a wing from Von Rothbart who fell, struggling, to the floor as a conquered villain. The ending was resolved so rapidly, however, that the viewer was left bemused at the speed. Overall, it was a lovely night at the ballet, particularly if you enjoy beautiful sets and happy endings.

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