Swan Lake remains at the heart of the classical ballet repertoire. Its choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Tchaikovsky have ensured its place in any dance company worth its claim to pre-eminence. And the music’s 19th century blend of the classical with the romantic has ensured audiences with a love of great music if only a passing interest in dance. Nevertheless, it has to be said that the growth of contemporary choreography and the increased number of smaller dance companies have rather reduced the appetites of both dancers and audiences for this extremely demanding, long, old, and often tired ballet. I include myself among those who have felt they had seen enough Swan Lakes to happily miss the next one. It is with this in mind that I say how suddenly I have been swept off my feet and made to believe again in the evergreen nature of the work, its music, its potential for surprise. (more…)

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As a long-time fan of the ballet Swan Lake, I eagerly anticipated sharing it with my children (aged five and nine), at the English National Ballet’s My First Ballet series.  These shortened versions of traditional ballets aim to introduce young audiences (3 years plus) to classical ballet in a fun and accessible way. For us, it mostly succeeded.

The audience at the 5pm performance was – not unexpectedly – 95% mums and little girls, so my five-year-old son’s game of spotting dads and boys was rather short-lived! There was an audible buzz of excitement throughout the auditorium, which the young ones minimised as the lights dimmed and their necks craned forward in anticipation. “Hello!” The greeting came from our jolly and personable narrator for the afternoon, who stood centre stage in modern dress and gym boots.  In wide-eyed wonder and an animated voice, she led us through a story of friendship and loyalty, love and forgiveness.  Without being intrusive or obstructing the dancing, she helped transfix the young audience to the stage action.  Top marks! (more…)

Saturday afternoon at the New Theatre (5.00pm performance) was an extremely happy occasion, with an auditorium full of little girls (and one or two boys) mostly accompanied by their mothers. ENB’s cut-down version of The Sleeping Beauty is pitched somewhere between a pantomime and a ballet, the story narrated by an actress playing the adult Aurora as she watches the rest of the cast dance, mime and act out the fairy tale. An advantage of this approach is that it restores to prominence the nineteenth-century mime scenes.

The cast consisted of very young dancers from the English National Ballet School, and it is frustrating that although the programme gave their names with photographs, there was no cast list included. One of the great pleasures of the afternoon was to see so much energy and emerging talent, but I am unable to name individual dancers with any certainty. (more…)

An opportunity to see a live transmission at Oxford’s Phoenix Picturehouse of one of the great 19th century ballets, Swan Lake,  performed by the Bolshoi Ballet.

At the palace, the royal family and their guests are gathered for Prince Siegfried’s birthday celebrations. In a majestic ceremony, Siegfried is made a knight; young girls try to attract his attention, as he must choose a wife during the ball. Overcome by the sudden awareness of his future responsibilities, he escapes into the night and meets a strange flock of swans by a magical lake.  White swan by day, human by night, the beautiful Odette awaits an oath of true love to break the curse. The great legend of the enigmatic woman/swan is one of the most romantic of classical ballets, appropriately set in an era of courtly romance and characterised by elegance, style and harmony.  With Tchaikovsky’s famous, lyrical score, Swan Lake depicts the tragic love between Princess Odette and Prince Siegfried, and will no doubt be performed to perfection by the unparalleled virtuosity of Russia’s great Bolshoi Ballet lead by Anna Nikulina and Alexander Volchkov. This universal and enchanting masterpiece of love, deception and drama is a must.

Date:  Sunday 25th January 2015, 3.00pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AE

Book online here or call 0871 902 5736

Running time: 135 minutes

Coming up this week, another visit to Oxford’s New Theatre by the Russian State Ballet and Orchestra of Siberia, this year bringing performances of two of the great Tchaikovsky ballets, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.  Formed in 1981, the Russian State Ballet of Siberia has quickly established itself as one of Russia’s leading ballet companies and has built an international reputation through regular touring. (more…)

This appeared originally online as part of a series of ongoing reflections on the process of making and performing work for Jennifer Jackson’s mature dancers’ project Dancing the Invisible, which showed work in performance last year at University of Surrey’s Ivy Arts Centre, and at the Michaelis Theatre at Roehampton University.  In a recent blog post Susie wrote:

Ashton used to say that watching The Sleeping Beauty was like having a private lesson in the art of composition in classical ballet (Kavanagh 1996, p.309).  The richness of Petipa’s choreographic text (despite its mutability and variation from one production to another) and the particular poetic and historic symbolism of the work, give it layers of significance and the potential for depth in individual artistic interpretation; to my mind according it the equivalence in status of such canonical musical masterpieces as the Bach cello suites, which invite artists to measure themselves and make a definitive personal statement of their understanding through their performance of the work. (more…)

The Sleeping Beauty is one of my favourite fairy-tales, Disney films, music scores… well, one of my favourite just about anything. For me, the ballet The Sleeping Beauty sums up everything that first delights any newcomer to ballet – young or old, the magic of the story and music has a mesmerising effect, and it rightfully maintains its position as one of the world’s most-loved ballets. I have seen it performed before by a small touring company, and was rather disappointed after a lacklustre production, but the English National Ballet quickly reaffirmed my faith in their performance at Oxford’s  New Theatre. (more…)