Reviews

Hot Russians lift a chilled classic

30 Aug 10 - Sydney Morning Herald, Australia - Jill Sykes

SWAN LAKE on Ice. Again. But it was so well done on opening night that any reticence was swept away. The Imperial Ice Stars have been bringing their largely Russian trained skaters to Australia for long enough to offer familiar faces and generational change. The depth of their skill is a joy to watch.

The astonishing feats of partnering at hair-raising speed are always a thrill, though they are achieved here so smoothly they can look deceptively simple. It's fascinating to watch the way skaters use weight, propulsion, balance and pace to time their high lifts and dazzling aerial partnerships.

Swan Lake's original story is pretty well intact, with Odile getting into the act earlier and a bold trio between her, Odette and Rothbart (Olena Pyatash, Olga Sharutenko and Vadim Yarkov) leading to an interesting twist.

Andrei Penkin as the Prince is an elegant skater and his reserved royal character is a good counterpoint to his jovial friend Benno, performed by Ruslan Novoseltsev with scene-stealing technique, vigour and theatricality.

Ensembles for the palace guests and the unpleasant crew that support Rothbart's evil ways offer a strong contrast. The ball scene gives full rein to the individual abilities of a generous number of performers, which they seize with gusto.

Each location is established by Eamon D'Arcy's appropriately traditional sets. Albina Gabueva's costumes are creatively cut, layered and fitted to suit the steps of the skaters who wear them - a fine achievement. Tchaikovsky occasionally gets a raw deal in the recording and arrangements of his music and I could have done without choreographer Tony Mercer putting his female performers on the points of their skates; clever, maybe, but ugly.

When Odette finally moves freely in her release from bondage as a swan, it is so delightful that it was disappointing more of this flexibility couldn't have replaced the stiff formality of most of the choreography. But it was impressive nonetheless and the finale of everyone doing their party pieces from the show is glorious fun.
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