The Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake, broadcast live from the Royal Opera House to the Phoenix Cinema, Oxford. 23 October 2012.

As Zenaida Yanowsky slowly unfolds her leg in a high développé devant, she seems to float for a moment before she rises and subsides, caught and supported by Nehemiah Kish as she falls backwards.   This is a very trusting partnership between Kish, an elegant dancer with beautiful line, and the lyrical Yanowsky.   Kish’s Siegfried is a sincere prince, who loves Odette, but has no chance against Yanowsky’s Odile:  her fouettés and virtuoso steps embody deceit, and she suffuses the most ordinary step, such as a posé turn, with cunning.

There were other fine performances and highlights, such as the little girl dressed in green in Act 1, whose beaten jumps fluttered like moth wings, and the corps de ballet in the “white acts”, which included students from the School.

I have reservations about this production (in particular, I disliked the drunken carousing in Act 1 and at the start of Act 2) and even under the direction of Ross MacGibbon, cinema is no substitute for direct theatrical experience.  The reactions of the audience in London gave tantalising hints of what we missed:  Kish in his Act 3 solo looked hemmed in, and he hardly seemed to get off the ground, but I know from the audience response in the Royal Opera House, that he must have done so.  Close ups can be merciless:  who would wish to perform tours en l’air for the big screen, as Alexander Campbell did in the pas de trois?  The medium favoured dancers such as the beautifully centred Yuhui Choe, also in the pas de trois, who made full use of facial expression and found extra moments in the music slightly to extend ports de bras and hold positions, whereas her companion Helen Crawford’s attack and vigour seemed more suited to the stage than to the screen.  The Cygnets too, probably looked better in the theatre than close up and supersized.  In the cinema, we could see the slight jolt of the boat as Odette and Siegfried glided into an Arthur Rackham-style oblivion, but on the other hand, the corps de ballet looked wonderful, and the camera angles showed them to great effect, especially in the final act.

In the interval, we had the bonus of cast interviews, some (frustratingly brief) snippets from rehearsals to accompaniment by Paul Stobart and a short feature on the corps de ballet with (I think) Sabina Westcombe, one of the Cygnets.

Maggie Watson

24 October 2012