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Northern Ballet Swan Lake - Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 27th Apr 2016 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith 26th April 2016

Swan Lake NB Emma Kauldhar

image Emma Kauldhar

David Nixon’s Swan Lake, performed by Northern Ballet, is far removed from traditional performances of this world famous ballet. This is a more contemporary Swan Lake set in New England in the early twentieth century, ‘La Belle Epoque’ – think Great Gatsby (or even Downton Abbey). The young men are dashing; the young women beautiful and independent. And yet for one young man this is a troubled world. Although there is no evil Von Rothbart or wicked spells, Anthony, the main protagonist, suffers. Since childhood he has been wracked with guilt over the drowning of his beloved brother in the lake. He is also unsure about his sexuality – is his best friend Simon the love of his life? Should he marry Odilia? His mental turmoil leads him into the arms of Odette, a beautiful swan-like creature who emerges from the lake – a reflection perhaps of his dead brother - and into marriage with Odilia, the human representation of Odette. The story begins with the lake and death and ends with the lake and death when Anthony, unable to face the realities of his existence, chooses a watery oblivion amongst the swans. 

Swan Lake NB Emma Kauldhar

image Emma Kauldhar

But the performance is not at all bleak because the dancing is exceptional. There is happiness and lightness in the antics of the men dancers - their skill and athleticism is remarkable -  beauty and grace in the perfect coordination of the swans, humour in some lake scenes and sensuality in the dancing of Odette (Ayami Miyata) and Odilia (Martha Leebolt). The change between the confident Odilia on her return from her travels and the suffering Odilia after her marriage to Anthony is beautifully choreographed. Simon (Giuliano Contadini) dances with repressed sexuality; the joy in his movements is almost tangible. Anthony (Javier Torres) expresses his conflicting emotions subtly through the choreography, at times light and delicate, at times dark and brooding; the slightest movement of his body conveys his deepest feelings. 

Swan Lake NB Lauren Godfrey

image Lauren Godfrey

The set is simple; reeds hide the lake until the third act when the swans – and Anthony - are in the water, which is luminously lit by a wafting blue sheet. The interiors are simple and classic, the lighting setting the mood. And of course the dancing is accompanied throughout by Tchaikovsky’s moving score, played flawlessly by Northern Ballet Sinfonia led by Geoffrey Allan. The original score has some omissions and some interpolations, but these changes seem to enhance the more contemporary version of this Swan Lake. 

Northern Ballet is an outstanding dance company and this Swan Lake a delight.

At MK Theatre until Saturday 30th April

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies



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