Review: Scottish Ballet: Swan Lake (4 stars)

Sophie Martin shines as prima ballerina in Scottish Ballet’s brooding new Swan Lake

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Review: Scottish Ballet: Swan Lake

credit: Andy Ross

Scottish Ballet’s new Swan Lake is a world premiere, choreographed by David Dawson, with design from Yumiko Takeshima (costume) and John Otto (set). And new it feels, not just aesthetically. Underpinning the modern suits, splashes of muted colour and neo-Gothic shards of forest, there’s a distinct contemporary sensibility to the reinvention of the tale. Dawson pulls a new kind of femininity onto the stage here, one made of feather, muscle and a heart that won’t crack and die simply by being denied love.

Christopher Harrison’s Siegfried is a youthful brooding outsider, a misfit in a land of shifting couplings, back pats of bro-love and show-off turns. It’s a long opening act without much progression, and you can feel the tension instantly climb as soon as Harrison is alone onstage. Here the eloquence and emotion of Dawson’s soft fluid lines are free to blossom in a mournful, heartfelt solo.

But it’s when Sophie Martin’s Odette enters that it becomes clear Dawson has found a match for his vision. Martin gives her most outstanding prima ballerina performance yet, wringing the most out of every detail in the battle between swan and woman, from her insouciant blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kick of an entrance, to the skating, knotting pas de deux she performs with Harrison. Drenched in panache and muscularity, her Odette seems both haunted and haunting as she shifts from sprite to mortal to animal and back.

The swan chorus echoes this strength, arms with claw-like savagery, their resting stance – one arm behind the head, the other aloft, arched backs – a mixture of provocation and warning. These are not sparkling cygnets but wild birds. Nor is Odette a helpless princess caught in a spell but a woman who transmogrifies of her own choosing, free to reject her lover and return to the sisterhood when he betrays her.

The Scottish Ballet Orchestra raises its game in the final act, and in Odette’s swansong (as it were) dance, story, lighting and music come together to electrifying effect.

Swan Lake, Theatre Royal, 0844 871 7647, until 23 Apr, 7.30pm, matinee Sat 2pm, £13.00–£37.00 (£12.00–£36.00), then touring.

Scottish Ballet: Swan Lake

Scottish Ballet present David Dawson’s exciting new version of the ballet classic, set to Tchaikovsky’s emotive score.


1. Janice Mackenzie22 Apr 2016, 9:41am Report

My recent trip see to Scottish Ballets Swan Lake at The Theatre Royal was the most disappointing trip to a show ever. With everything stripped back; costumes, set / scenery and traditional steps, what you are left with resembles a group rehearsing in the village hall. The males appeared to be dancing in loose fitting lounge clothes and the females in sloggies. All my favourite bits had been removed and a lot of the dancing would have been more at home on Strictly with the women been swept around the floor a lot.

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