English National Ballet at Royal Albert Hall – Swan Lake in-the-round

Swan Lake, Op.20 – ballet in four acts to choreography by Derek Deane after Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov

Odette / Odile – Laurretta Summerscales
Prince Siegfried – Arionel Vargas
The Queen – Jane Haworth
Rothbart – James Streeter
The Tutor – Michael Coleman

Act One:
Pas de Douze – Jung ah Choi, Jenna Lee, Senri Kou, Araminta Wraith, Miarize Fumero, Amber Hunt, Désirée Ballantyne, Anjuli Hudson, Vitor Menezes, Anton Lukovkin, Teo Dubreuil, Nathan Young

Act Two:
Lead Swans – Jenna Lee, Ksenia Ovsyanik, Jia Zhang, Alison McWhinney
Cygnets – Crystal Costa, Désirée Ballantyne, Anjuli Hudson, Senri Kou, Jennie Harrington, Nancy Osbaldeston, Jung ah Choi, Shiori Kase, Adela Ramirez

Act Three:
Princesses – Seo-Yeon Yu, Jung ah Choi, Jennie Harrington, Amber Hunt, Jenna Lee, Stina Quagebeur, Jia Zhang
Spanish Dance – Alison McWhinney, , Désirée Ballantyne, Adela Ramirez, Kerry Birkett, Zhanat Atymtayev, Guilherme Menezes, Laruent Liotardo, Francisco Bosch
Neapolitan Dance – Crystal Costa, Barry Drummond
Czárdás – Senri Kou, Nancy Osbaldeston, Sayako Tomiyoshi, Tamarin Stott, Van Le Ngoc, Stephen Wilson, Joshua McSherry-Gray, Pedro Lapetra

Artists of English National Ballet

Orchestra of English National Ballet
Gerry Cornelius

Derek Deane – Production
Peter Farmer – Designs
Howard Harrison – Lighting

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 22 June, 2013
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Swan Lake in the Round, English National Ballet. Photograph: www.ballet.org.ukIt is quite something to be able to write about a young British dancer taking on a Classical Ballet lead role – both The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet are peopled at principal level almost exclusively with artists from around the world, and rarely does home-grown talent get a look-in. Tamara Rojo, visibly taking ENB by the scruff of its neck and giving it a good shake, has taken the impressive step of casting the 22-year-old Surrey dancer Laurretta Summerscales in no less a role than the dual identity Odette/Odile in Derek Deane’s Barnum-and-Bailey version of Swan Lake for the Royal Albert Hall. It was a brave decision – not only did Summerscales have to cope with the huge technical and interpretative demands of this totemic part, but also the ‘in the round’ concept, so far from the usual proscenium presentation of Classical Dance. She rose most impressively to all the challenges set before her, and fulfilled the confidence that Rojo had placed in her.

She is a slender, elegant dancer, with attractive feet and a welcome pliancy; she also is a natural actress, and made full use of large, mournful eyes as the sad Swan Queen in Acts Two and Four. Technically, she is strong, fearlessly launching into the bravura steps of the Act Three Black Swan pas de deux, and even managing several doubles in the notorious 32 fouetté sequence in the coda. Her strong balances, which allow her to hold a swan-like silhouette and Tamara Rojo &  Matthew Golding (Swan Lake, English National Ballet). Photograph: David Jensenimprint it in the audience’s collective eye are welcome, and while she is not as yet the most musical of interpreters, further exposure (one hopes) to this role and other lead parts, will nurture and develop further that side of her performance. Her partner was the elegant Arionel Vargas, something of a forgotten principal at ENB, who performs with élan, and while lacking the last ounce of virtuosity, understands the role of Siegfried, both in terms of its dancing and acting challenges. He partnered Summerscales with strength and sensitivity, showing her to her best advantage, and also proved a good physical match. James Streeter was a deeply evil Von Rothbart, tearing about in a flurry of menace, managing his enormous cape and wings artfully.

Deane’s production carries many of the virtues of his proscenium version – it is an honest and clear production, although the happy ending makes nonsense of the music but pleases the crowds nonetheless. And what a crowd – it is testament to Deane and to the company that the RAH was almost sold-out this Saturday matinée. For such masses, Deane quadruples his forces, so the Act One pas de trois becomes a pas de douze, and there are four quartets of hopping cygnets in Act Two. He does it with remarkable success, allowing everyone a slice of the action. Less successful is when Deane departs from the established choreographic text in Act Four to impose movement of his own which, frankly, does and says very little bar manoeuvring the 60+ swans around the arena with admirable precision. The ladies of ENB are heavily augmented, and a mighty fine spectacle it makes: subtle, no, but still impressive as they all move in unison or in blocks. Such a large-scale production shouldn’t work so well, but it most certainly does, not only in terms of providing large-scale spectacle, but also for the central narrative which remains as potent as it has ever been.

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