Birmingham Royal Ballet has enjoyed huge success in the presentation of contemporary pieces during its twenty year presence in the city, take David Bintley’s E=mc2 which won a South Bank Show Award for contemporary dance last year. However, it is the traditional classics crafted by previous BRB Director Sir Peter Wright which have provided the solid foundations for the company’s success.
Swan Lake is a fine example of Wright’s craftsmanship in creating visually striking representations of the classic ballet repertoire. Wright is aided in conjuring a gothic landscape by Philip Prowse’s design of large dominating towers and a gloomy yet atmospheric palette of light and dark in Peter Teigen’s lighting.
The dark side of this ballet is a major component in its engaging narrative and makes for a more compelling evening in comparison to some of the other classics, such as Sleeping Beauty. The third act is more of a celebratory presentation rather than aiding in the progression of the story and does tend to repeat itself in terms of its content. However, this is more than compensated in the glorious fourth act which is stirringly glorious in its aesthetic and emotional beauty as the chorus of swans rise from the wash of dry ice drawing a gasp of appreciation from the audience.
The large ensemble of female swans look picture perfect in their wash of white tutus and sparkling headdresses and execute the choreography with grace and accuracy. The strength of the choreography as a narrative device is clear in this particular production as it is always clear when the ensemble are in human form and when they are magically transformed into swans; their legs frantically move like they are paddling through the dense water, yet the upper body remains calm and fluid.
Tchaikovsky’s infamous score is startlingly brought to life by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, perfectly matching the shades of Sir Peter Wright’s production in the perfect mix of light and dark.