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REVIEW: Swan Lake, Moscow Ballet – La Classique, at Pavilion Theatre, Worthing

I KNOW you can be validly exposed as a fool only before midday on the first of the April month.

But Prince Siegfried was a right evening April Fool at The Pavilion Theatre on Sunday (April 1).

The sudden and apparently permanent calculating smile on the face of his perceived beloved was something completely new as “she” arrived at the court for his birthday entertainment.

As we know, his shy and sensitive Odette is not the Odile he is now confronted with, as chaperoned and fathered by the Von Rothbart in a way the evil magician had not behaved with Odile at the lakeside in Act 2.

The smile was incessant on Anastasia Chumakova’s face and Siegfried never twigs until too late.

Despite Odette’s fleeting appearance before Rothbart flings his cloak in front of her as desperate a screen.

This so-simple deception in Swan Lake is when we have to suspend our disbelief.

Surely Odile must even smell different to Odette.

But, hey ho, such is this sorcerer Rothbart’s ruthless power.

And, contrary to Russian ballet tradition, in this production he is undone and destroyed by the reunification Odette permits in forgiving Siegfried his stupidity and in betrothal grabbing her lifeline back to humanity.

The ballet crowds thronged back the Pavilion to see this Russian company in its most famous and popular native Tchaikovsky repertoire.

The Moscow-born, now Latvian-residing Chumakova rejoined the company as guest principal for this tour.

Her dancing was plenty of what the swan requires and as her imposter she duly sparkled, but her characterisation was as dismaying as Odile as it had been winning as Odette.

By the lake she defeated her shyness and fear, and in their pas de deux warmed to Dmitry Smirnov’s Siegfried to the extent of twice stealing a kiss, and, of course, incurring the wrath of Rothbart.

But not before two subtle pairs of head movements told us in bird-speech, that she was even edging towards mating mode.

But I fear her blatant Odile took us unnecessarily close to pantomime.

Siegfried would surely have been warned by screaming children.

More a star for me were the corps.

They were smoothly united without appearing regimented and with a maximum of 15 girls, they created the required sense of spectacle and collective mute melancholy.

Moscow Ballet La Classique director, Erik Melikov, told me on larger stages on this British tour he had been able to swell the flock by 10.

With the danseurs nobles, the classical ballet princes, often taller and leggier these days, the smaller Pavilion Theatre space constricted the leaps of Smirnov.

Though not the prolific ones of the smaller, sprightlier, figure of Georgy Migunov as the royal court jester.

One unfortunate slight loss of balance early on was naturally forgiven by the audience, whom he surprised and delighted later with more than one cartwheel.

Here was the proper Fool of this show in April.

This production actually names him as The Fool — as would Shakespeare — and here was a big plus for this production.

Swan Lake Jesters are loveably mischievous and fun-seeking; this Swan Lake Fool is a no less loveably exuberant lad comically aware of his twittish flaw.

His black, crimson and gold pointed up another strong audience reward from Russia, which was the costuming.

Apricot and white was Act 1; a kaleidoscope of colours for the court and the Spanish, Neopolitan and Hungarian dancers came in Act 3.

And, innovatively, a Scottish beauty who, with her tartan, contrary to the Fool’s guest list, was quietly added to the three foreign Princesses paraded in vain for Siegfried’s approval.

To gain space for movement, the court, normally gathered around to spectate and admire, left the stage for the divertissements as well as the Black Swan pas de deux.

What was sacrificed in festive atmosphere was compensated for by dramatic focus and the quality of the soloists.

The four cygnets had looked a little tour-jaded in Act 2.

Their important and characteristic head movements were rather under-pronounced.

But, overall, this production joyed much more than it jarred, and the company, after their annual summer residence in one of Moscow’s theatres, will be back here in the autumn — probably with either Sleeping Beauty or the Nutcracker.

Richard Amey

 

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