Escapism of the highest order

08 Jul 10 - Dominion Post , New Zealand - Jenny Stevenson

The standards of artistic excellence of this production of Swan Lake on Ice have remained at a very high level in the interval of four years since it was first performed in Wellington.  At that time it was a brand-new production, trading on the “shock of the new” in creating a novel dance form – that of ballet on ice.  In the interim, we as audiences have come to appreciate the genre and the new criteria for artistry that it entails.

The artistry appears to lie not so much in the individual interpretive skills of the dancer, as is the case in classical ballet, where an elite artist can lift the technical excellence of their performance into the realms of the sublime through an ability to individually interpret the choreographer’s intent.

Instead, ice-dance artistry appears to build on the performers’ security in their technique that enables them to incorporate a thrilling sense of derring-do into their interpretations of the role.  The audience is swept up in the excitement of the illusions that are created: the unique sensation of the gliding human form that precludes the inherent rhythms of walking or running, and bodies spinning so fast that our vision is blurred. 

The result is a genre where the protagonists assume the mythical proportions of the fairy-tale, because they move in a manner that is beyond the realms of our comprehension.

So Odette, in this version of Swan Lake, is self-empowered; no longer a victim, instead she deals to the conniving Baron Von Rothbart and wins back her man.  The pathos is turned to victory and ‘survival of the fittest’ takes on a whole new meaning.

Reprising the role of Odette from her previous Wellington appearance, Olga Sharutenko displays all the subtle nuances of her character’s development with the apogee being the beautiful flying sequences and the pas-de-deux, which is actually danced en-pointe on the ice.

Olena Pyatesh, also reprising her role of Odile dances a steely yet flirtatious sequence in Act Two with the right amount of seduction to ensure she dazzles the hapless Prince Siegfried. 

Andre Penkin as Siegfried is an undoubted star.  When last here, he played the part of Benno, Siegfried’s exuberant side-kick, but as Siegfried he bubbles with a barely-repressed boyish excitement, anxious to take on the world and all that it entails.  When he realises the consequences of his betrayal of Odette, his pain is palpable – but he turns it around with a flashing sword-fight on ice, in the best romantic tradition, to win back his true love. 

Ruslan Novoseltsev is charming as Benno, constantly at his Prince’s side and not averse to a little flirtation with the Prince’s rejects.  His strong technique is displayed to the fullest in the competitive show-off sequences between him and Siegfried. 

Vadim Yarkov, who played Siegfried in the last production, nails the cunning persona and the swirling theatricality of the Baron Von Rothbart role, relishing the ability to conjure up such tricks as ‘flaming’ the ice to realise his ambitions.

The huge corps-de-ballet of ice dancers go a long way to recreating the fairy-tale world with their dazzling technique and the innovative tricks that are displayed throughout the ballet, particularly in the Divertissements sequences in Act Two where Princesses from many nations are vying for Siegfried’s attention.  This becomes a glorious excuse to try and out-do each other in bravura displays of technique created by Artistic Director and Choreographer, Tony Mercer.

The technical wizardry of this production is admirable, contributing greatly to its success – with enormous attention to detail in the costuming, lighting and set, as well as the creation of the ice-stage itself. 

There is much to admire in this stunning two-hour plus show, which is escapism of the highest order, holding even the youngest members of the audience in its thrall.

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