Review by Regina Su
In the foyer, there was a buzz. Grandparents and children all dressed up in their finest frocks, families on an outing, couples on a date. Everyone gathered at the Big Top in Luna Park to see the Russian National Ballet Theatre’s performance of Swan Lake. The excitement was tangible to see this international dance troupe perform one of the most famous ballets in history, with sweeping Tchaikovsky and a classic good versus evil love story.
Swan Lake is a ballet of mystery and magic, where women are turned into swans by the Evil magician Rothbart. Only true love will break their spell and so we are taken on a Prince Siegfried’s journey as he navigates the forest of tragedy and love.
The dancers of the Russian National Ballet Theatre were sublime. The principal women had an untapped power that resonated through their prospective characters. Marta Lutcko?’s performance of Odette and Odile was feisty and full of passion. She took centre stage impressing the audience with countless pirouettes, which no doubt take discipline and determination.
The famous dance of the four cygnets was precise and greeted with a roar of well-deserved applause. The principal males were each very convincing in their characters- the evil Rothbart was quite unsettling in his powerful portrayal of the meddling magician seeming to float on air with effortless grace, while the Jester was so light on his feet, leaping and bounding across the stage.
Swan Lake is always a crowd pleaser, and attending the ballet is one of my favourite past times. However, I was bothered by the venue and how it catered to such an occasion. The corps de ballet seemed to be making adjustments to the tight stage and so the vast majesty and grace of Tchaikovsky was a little lost as the dancers navigated a small stage. Their ability, however, to adapt to such a stage after touring around various stages in NSW, is a true mark of how versatile the dancers were.
The ballet was very classical and traditional in its performance, compared with the contemporary imaginings of Swan Lake that often resurface in the Australian Ballet. They sported a traditional backdrop, and bejewelled Russian costumes, feathered tutus and delicate dresses for the character dancing in the second act, yet the impact of these was lost by the lighting, which I found disappointing. Whenever the stage was awash in an atmospheric green haze, the back half of the stage was left in dim lighting and there was no spotlight to celebrate the principal artists in their most pivotal moments of choreography and plot centerstage.
The value of this Russian National Ballet Theatre performance comes down to the excellent standard of the corps de ballet and the principal artists. Without a live orchestra and venue adversity, the dancers shone with impeccable precision and passion. I was very impressed with the quality of the Russian National Ballet Theatre and would be pleased to attend more performances by them in venues more suited to the ballet style of theatre.
Photo credits: Big Top Sydney