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Swan Lake

Published 26 March 2009

As part of the annual Spring Dance at the London Coliseum, the renowned American Ballet Theatre performs the most famous and well loved of all the classic ballets, Swan Lake.

Telling the tragic story of lovers Odette and Prince Siegfried, principal dancers Michele Wiles and David Hallberg take on the roles of the fated pair. Act one begins at the Prince’s coming of age celebration where he is told he must choose a bride by the end of his birthday ball the following night. Unnerved by the prospect, the Prince retreats into the forest where he is entranced by the sight of a beautiful swan. As the swan dances into flight she transforms into Odette and the two fall under each others’ spell.

However, Odette has long been cursed by an evil sorcerer who trapped her into the body of a swan, the spell only to be broken if someone could swear fidelity to her for eternity through marriage. But the doomed lovers’ hopes for happiness are dashed when the Prince is tricked into seduction by the sorcerer’s daughter Odile and the pair realise they can only be united through death.

Designed by Zack Brown, the ballet has the feel of a classic Disney production, with fairytale castle backdrops contrasting with the sinister, dark forest where the green, winged monster that is the evil sorcerer lives. Scenes that take place in the castle and within the realm of the human world take on the appearance of rich tapestries, with heavy skirted dresses in purple and burnt orange and grand palace backdrops to conjure up images of grandeur and wealth. It is in these scenes that the company perform solo dances for the Queen and in turn the audience. As is traditional for Swan Lake, the ballerinas perform both classical ballet and character pieces as they entertain the Queen with national dances in Russian and Spanish costumes.

However, it is the scenes that take place within the dark and misty forest, where Tchaikovsky’s emotionally rousing score and the elegant swans combine, which makes Swan Lake so well loved. Dozens of dancers dressed in pure white, feathered tutus and silver-glittered headpieces truly evoke the magic of the ballet, the dancers iridescent against the midnight blue backdrops and shadowy trees. Odette, only distinguishable from the other swans by the flash of red on her corset, flocks with the other swans in hypnotic synchronicity around the monstrous sorcerer, evoking the desperation and emotion that truly makes the ballet take flight.



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