Ice and fire fill the Lyric Theatre with wonderment

29 Aug 10 - Stage Noise - Dianna Simmonds

TONY MERCER, bluff Englishman and boss of the Imperial Ice Stars company is, on the face of it, an unlikely Balanchine of the ice rink, but this production suggests that's what he's become.

The company has moved leaps and bounds and lutzes from its last Australian tour (can it be five years ago?) and even that show was light years beyond the clodhopping lack of imagination of the traditional ice shows. Swan Lake on Ice is now a discrete art form, combining the best of classical ballet and its music and the best of ice dance. Mercer has taken the bal let masterpiece and reinvented it for blades, strength, grace and speed.

The Tchaikovsky score has also been reinvented and laced through with strands of percussive rhythm that l ink the flying skaters to the earthbound world of pointe shoes but free them from gravity. The result is a set of combinations and differences that are uniquely exhilarating and beauti ful .

The story doesn' t stray from the much-loved fairy tale: a Prince is required to find a suitable wi fe and marry, while out hunting with his best pal Benno, they come upon a flock of swans. In its midst is a beautiful hal f-swan, half-human, Odette; they dance, she flies, they fall in love.

Meanwhile, back at the palace, the Prince's mother is keen for him to tie the knot and the beastly Baron Rothbart is even keener that it should be with his daughter, the gorgeous Odile - who reminds the Prince strangely of his great love. I t takes close to two hours of glorious orchestral music, spectacular costumes and skating and a remarkably clear tel ling of the story to resolve the Prince's dilemma.

In between times, long-time company stars Andrey Penkin (the romantic charming Prince), Olga Sharutenko (graceful, heart-rending Odette), and Vadim Yarkov (saturnine, brooding Rothbart) and Ruslan Novoseltsev (dashing Benno) dazzle the audience with their individual strengths and skills. The rest of the company colours in the picture of the Russian court with intricate and exciting set pieces and tableaux that make the most of Eamon D'Arcy's sets and Albina Gabueva's gl ittering, sexy costumes.

Swan Lake on Ice is a great night out for all the family. My adult non-ice types were blown away by the spectacle and sheer speed and ski ll of the dancers; 7-year-old Felicity was goggle-eyed and clapped her hands off at each successive feat of daring and beauty; 5-year-old James - initially dubious - was rapt throughout and it was particularly good to have him marvel at role models of graceful, gentle, athletic and brave masculinity up on the stage.

They also loved their flashing fairy wands from the merchandise stall, chosen by them from an array of t-shirts, dvds and other value-for-money memorabilia. All in all , a night to remember and I can only look forward to what Mercer and his collaborators come up with next. Thoroughly recommended.

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Upcoming show dates

 Peter Pan on Ice

Cinderella on Ice