Dance Review: The Imperial Ice Stars Swan Lake on Ice

08 Jul 10 - Dominion Post , New Zealand - Ann Hunt

The young child next to me sat entranced on the edge of her seat and whispered: "It's so beautiful!" And it was. This enchanting production captures all the magic of the original ballet and adds theatrical punch and psychological depth.

There are changes to the scenario, which work well in this context. The work is successfully condensed from four acts to two; the dual role of the Swan Queen Odette and the sorcerer's daughter Odile, usually played by one dancer, is here danced by two. The end is a happy one.

Artistic director/ choreographer Tony Mercer has achieved his stated intention of presenting a logical and real storyline that still retains its fairytale magic. This stunning production uses splendid ice dance, magical aerial work, acrobatics and fiery special effects to blur the line between reality and enchantment. Olga Sharutenko (Odette) is a beautiful ice dancer and sensitive actor.

Her Swan Queen is gravely commanding, vulnerable and loving, yet displays a strong fighting spirit when she confronts Von Rothbart in act two. Olena Pyatash convinces as Odile and uses excellent technique and pliant arms to create a many-layered, sympathetic character. As the Prince, Andrey Penkin, while charming, is more problematic.

A previously successful Benno, he has a way to go in developing the role of Prince Siegfried. Although an excellent skater, with a most engaging personality, his work is studded with body mannerisms which prevent real emotion from surfacing. Vadim Yarkov's Von Rothbart is darkly menacing and well conveys the power that keeps Odette in his thrall, while Ruslan Novoseltsev as Benno brought the house down with his brilliant technique and panache.

The ball variations were well danced, with a particularly pleasing Russian variation, and the corps de ballet are superb. Eamon D'Arcy's beautiful yet immensely functional sets are masterly. Designer Albina Georgievna Gabueva's costumes for act one are particularly stunning - from the Romanov- inspired, pastel palette of the opening scene to the delicate floating swan dresses. Less successful are some of the foreign guests' ball costumes and the headdresses for the swans and crows.

But these are minor quibbles in a spectacular production that had the opening night audience cheering and shouting. After all, we do need happy endings now and again.

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