You can see it right from the first portrait prominently displayed on the front screen during the prologue. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky looks towards the audience like a czar of ballet music, exactly as choreographer Rudi van Dantzig and master designer Toer van Schayk intended. Here is a man who struggled with his identity, his desires and the obligations his environment imposed on him. It is this struggle that is evident in the Dutch version of Swan Lake prevails.
Prince Siegfried reflects in the story the challenges of the composer, especially entering into marriage. It is the drama of the young, vulnerable prince who sees his ideals realised in a white swan and then finds his downfall disillusioned. First soloist Young Gyu Choi performs this lead role superbly. As a male dancer, he approaches the purity of ballet technique to perfection, all his movements express a desire that floats along with him even to great leaps, and the innocence and enthusiasm with which he throws himself into his dreamscape are completely convincing.
'This company will never find a dancer of my calibre,' a Dutch National Ballet soloist once told me. Many years later, I prove him wrong.
The corps de ballet
Swan Lake is a tearjerker. This is reinforced by the contrast between the menacing magician Von Rothbart (beautifully danced by a quick and totally absorbed in his role Conor Walmsley), and the tragedy of his swan queen Odette. The famous second and fourth acts that evoke a mystical world of white swans, overwhelming in precision, beauty and inspiration, complete the fairy tale experience. Handsome how the original choreographer Lev Ivanov uses rows, diagonals and swans running in circles to swelling music to make the collective work, driven by two beautiful, taller swans and four smaller ones. Lyrical highlight is the adagio section in the fourth act where Odette is taken in by the corps dancing arm in arm while comforting.
The swan queen
It takes a while for the Siberian-born first soloist Anna Ol to thaw as a swan queen. Love at first sight does not seem to be in evidence with her at first. In the third act, however, the perfectly sculpted dancer loosens up completely, throwing herself between the famous 32 fouettés en tournant there are several double turns in between (even the first bravos finally follow) and finally she shows herself to be a languorous, committed love partner in the final act. Ol has beautiful arms that she manages to turn fluidly, the lithe back arched, the head tilted and a graceful neck to portray the essence of a swan.
It puts a lump in your throat. But maybe I'm just sentimental or I've had a tough week. In any case, conductor Matthew Rowe knows how to make The Ballet Orchestra play compellingly and with passion. Even the audience cheers him on even before the final act begins. At the end, there are many open ditties for an auditorium of young and old audiences who, in the 21st century, love to be enchanted by ballet, ballet music and a live orchestra. Few people believe in fairy tales, but many still believe in love, and some in love at first sight.
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