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Don Q Fan

English National Ballet, Swan Lake 2018-19

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ENB kicked off their national tour of Swan Lake last night in Liverpool.  It was pretty much full house (= cacophony of rustling papers etc!) but despite distractions it was a nice performance.  Jurgita Dronina/Isaac Hernandez/James Streeter took the leads.   I enjoyed the performance but overall it didn't get me emotionally this time.  The swans were really good very well drilled and the corps de ballet in Act 1 and 3 were also very good.  I think Rothbart and the swans were the best bit last night, and I must mention the 2 dancers who replaced Ken Sarasuhi they were both great and I really enjoyed watching them.  Junor Souza was in the show but only in Act 3.  Sadly Dronina ran out of puff with her fouettes so we didn't quite get the full 32. (I know I'm sorry I count!) The music was beautifully played I thought and it sounded great from my seat in the Circle and thankfully drowned out some of the background noises from those rustlers! I am sure Janet will write a better review than I - I am just about to leave to go down south but just wanted to post a few curtain call photos. 

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Thanks Don Q fan for those splendid photos. 

 

I was there too on opening night (nice to meet you Don Q Fan and chat to Janet and Sharon too). Those pictures do indeed represent how good the production is and what a high quality Swan ensemble there was, as you mentioned. I usually like the 'Black' act the best but on this night I must day it was the White acts which most impressed me.

 

Jurgita Dronina's Odette/Odile debut with ENB and so fascinating and memorable for that. I had always thought, (from seeing her you tube videos) that with her strength in technique she would be a perfect Odile, but I must say her sensitivity and emotion as Odette was far more impressive to me. 

 

Having seen this production before with Rojo and Cojocaru dancing the leads (in Liverpool again, 2014), I felt that this wasn't quite,  as a whole, at the same level as those performances. Maybe this is unfair, incorrect, rose-tinted glasses etc. But I felt that the technical strengths of the leads and solos didn't quite match those in 2014 in memory. 

 

I agree that the large crowd was a bit distracting (talking during quiet bits, rustling, coats thrown over chair backs getting in the viewline) , plus a fairly hyperactive usher (who to be fair was probably only trying to to their job well). So maybe these issues rather affected my appreciation. It was good to see a good turnout and great response from the audience. 

 

I may see another performance before the run ends, depending if I have enough time. 

  

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Last night was interesting - the audience was unsettled, lots of distracting noises both inside and outside the Empire. Maybe that was one of the reasons why I wasn't really engaged in this performance. A performance I was eager to see as it was Jurgita Dronina's debut in this production. She is a lovely dancer but is definitely an Odette rather than an Odile. As she gains experience and confidence in the role I'm sure it will improve. However it might of helped if her Siegfried had given her something to react against. Hernandez spent the  act 1 looking sulky rather than a Prince looking for a meaningful existence. His dancing, especially his jumps, was quite good, although I thought his turnout could be better, but his lack of interpretation/acting made me wonder why Odette would be at all interested....

Apart from Dronina's, the stand out performances came from  a young dancer (Giorgio Garrett?)replacing Ken Saruhasi in the Past Des Trois, and an excellent Daniel McCormack  - and Barry Drummond showed off some fantastic batterie work in the Neopolitan. The swans were all really good, very 'well drilled' I said during the interval - lovely to meet Jan, DonQ and northstar - but generally not a memorable performance.

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Last night's performance of Swan Lake had Francisco Gabriel Frola make his debut as Siegfried. And what a very promising debut this was. He has such a great technique, beautiful lines, high jumps, his tours in particular were very good and finished in 5th. Of course it wasn't perfect - but that seemed unimportant because he had character. His solo in Act 1 was just gorgeous, controlled, with lovely held arabesque's.  This was a prince, a prince who had been told to choose a bride. Frola, a very handsome young man, was believable as a man discontented with his life, falling in love with Odette, then bewitched by Odile and finally his horror when he realised his mistake. Frola is a wonderful dancer who uses his interpretive skills and not just his technique. A great asset to the company.

The rest of the cast were great. Frola'a secure and experienced Odette/Odile was Erina Takahashi, who gave a polished performance. Though once again it was the young men in the company that stood out, Daniel McCormick in the Trois,  Barry Drummond in the Polonaise, and making his debut Prix winner, Shale Wagman in the Neapolitan. The corps were once again very, very good. Altogether a much more satisfying performance.

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Just back from the Friday eve performance lead by Rina Kanehara and Ken Saruhashi. Wasn't sure if I would make it, but I think Don Q Fan's wonderful pics made me want more of those fabulous swans! And very glad I went too. As on opening night, a superb and magical ensemble of ethereal creatures.

 

Similar to Sharon (who also saw opening night), I found myself more satisfied and pleased by my second performance. There could be many reasons for this (friday feeling, maybe!) and I don't want to say that this performance was 'superior' to opening night. But I felt the special 'glow' on more occasions tonight - that feeling when you start to get caught up in the magic.

 

Kanehara and Sarahashi gave convincing, beautiful performances. Although I have to say, when you've seen a few Swan Lakes, it's kind of disappointing when it's NOT convincing and beautiful. I was glad to have caught Kanehara on her debut in this production according to the cast sheet, and I was particularly impressed by her Black Swan solo where she seemed to give a few personal and original touches which I thought were fabulous. (For those interested, she delivered a good set of fouettes too). Sarahashi was an extremely elegant Siegfried. 

 

But once more I must voice my appreciation of the swan ensemble. In Act II the first ensemble number, when the swans pose in rows like crucifixes, bourree, rotate, bouree again - just so effective and breath-taking. That moment got one of the biggest responses from the crowd of the whole evening - nevermind the 32 fouettes.

Forgot to praise the orchestra last time. I could listen to the score, played so superbly, without any dancing and still get shivers. As part of the visual sensation of ballet and this production, it's status as masterpiece was again very clear to me this week. Look forward to hear what other forum users think of the coming performances.

Edited by northstar
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Fine performances last night from Rina Kanehara (debuting as Odette/Odile) and Ken Saruhashi (reprising the role of Siegfried which he first danced four years ago, also in Liverpool). In addition to great technical facility, Kanehara has the rare ability to phrase and act ‘in the moment’ and, in consequence, she made both her characters feel very real. Saruhashi was very princely and brought off all fireworks with considerable aplomb. His Act 2 relationship with Odette was touchingly tender and loving.

 

Huge kudos to the supporting cast too as I understand that , in addition to this being their fourth show, they had done five full run throughs already this week. Stand outs were Francesca Velicu as the lead villager, Erik Woolhouse in the pas de trois and Spanish, and Anjuli Hudson and Barry Drummond in the  Neopolitan.

 

ENB seems to have changed the lighting with result that Act 3 in particular looks very blue and smokey. This is not a good idea when the two leads are in black and need to be seen throughout.

 

It is good to report that the show had sold very well but being part of an (appreciative) audience where people were going in and out to replenish their drinks was a new experience for me, as was all the talking, not only through the musical introduction and entractes but also during much of the dancing. But the important thing was that people were coming to ballet in their droves and having a great time.

 

 

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I was also at the Liverpool Empire on Friday night and I thought that the evening was quite special.  It was the best "Swan  Lake" I have seen this year and that includes Scarlett's at Covent Garden and St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's at the Coliseum with Denis Rodkin as Siegfried.  In fact, it was in my estimation one of the best ever.

 

I was also impressed by both Rina Kanehara and Ken Saruhashi but particularly by Kanrhara. 

 

Like Capybara I enjoyed the Neapolitan dance.  I am sure it must have been created by Ashton for I remember Wayne Sleep dancing it with - I think - Jennifer Penney in the early 1970s.   The Royal Ballet no longer seem to do it which I regret so it was good to see it in this production,

Everyone - musicians as well as dancers - performed well and I think they were lifted by an appreciative if somewhat noisy audience.   This is not the first time that theatre has delivered an outstanding "Swan Lake".  I saw David Dawson's equally good but very different productions there some years ago.   

I am a bit behind with my reviews.   I need to write up ENB's Manon, BRB's Fille mal gardee, two performances of Ballet Black and one each of Ballet Theatre UK and Phoenix.  But Friday's performance deserved to jump the queue and you will find it in my blog if interested.

 



 

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20 hours ago, Terpsichore said:

 

Like Capybara I enjoyed the Neapolitan dance.  I am sure it must have been created by Ashton for I remember Wayne Sleep dancing it with - I think - Jennifer Penney in the early 1970s.   The Royal Ballet no longer seem to do it which I regret so it was good to see it in this production,
 


 



 

Ashton's Neopolitan is in RB's current production by Liam Scarlett. Dowell omitted it when he premiered his 1987 production - it was quickly reinstated. 

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It wasn't so much that Dowell omitted it as that Ashton refused him permission to use it, miffed that Dowell was dropping all the other bits of his Swan Lake choreography. It was restored after Ashton's death.

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I'm a bit late coming to the party here!

 

I was at the opening night last Wednesday and it was lovely to meet up with fellow BCF members in the intervals.

 

I think this is a really handsome production which I enjoyed greatly.  Jurgita Dronina was a lovely, affecting Odette/Odile but I'm afraid Isaac Hernandez danced the role beautifully for a block of wood.

 

The highlights for me were James Streeter as Von Rothbart and the Neapolitan Dance.

 

I wish I had been able to see more performances but I was off to Norfolk for the weekend on Thursday.

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8 hours ago, Jane S said:

It wasn't so much that Dowell omitted it as that Ashton refused him permission to use it, miffed that Dowell was dropping all the other bits of his Swan Lake choreography. It was restored after Ashton's death.

Thanks for that, Jane. I had forgotten the exact details. Good for Ashton! 

Edited by Darlex

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Just back from Bristol opening night.   A curate's egg.   Corps superb.   Shale Wagman (Neapolitan)  wow - couldn't take my eyes off him.   Definitely one to watch for the future.   Francisco Frola danced a convincing Siegfried.  Erina Takahashi knew the steps......and had Rothbart fallen on hard times and been sleeping on the street?   He certainly looked like it with his big beard and dreadlocks.  Also,  with the weird storyline anomallies having been ironed out in the new RB production,  they stood out like a sore thumb in this one.   Siegfried  leaving the stage when he is supposed to be choosing a bride, Rothbart coming to the ball as a big hairy bird thing, the foreign princesses all dressed the same and with no link to their retinues costume wise.   Hmm.  Anyway, the orchestra played with relish and the corps danced beautifully and with precision. . 

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Apologies to the homeless,  by the way.   Remarks about rothbart not meant to offend anyone, I should have thought that one out a bit better. 

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4 hours ago, cavycapers said:

Apologies to the homeless,  by the way.   Remarks about rothbart not meant to offend anyone, I should have thought that one out a bit better. 

No need to apologise, Cavycapers, but thank you.  

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8 hours ago, cavycapers said:

.  Also,  with the weird storyline anomallies having been ironed out in the new RB production,  they stood out like a sore thumb in this one.   Siegfried  leaving the stage when he is supposed to be choosing a bride, 

 

Actually this sort of made sense to me as he does not want to choose a bride so I have always just taken it that he is deliberately ignoring the situation.  

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18 hours ago, Jane S said:

It wasn't so much that Dowell omitted it as that Ashton refused him permission to use it, miffed that Dowell was dropping all the other bits of his Swan Lake choreography. It was restored after Ashton's death.

 

Did Dowell have a falling out with Ashton?  I always thought it was most peculiar that he jettisoned the bits created by the choreographer that gave the RB its unique style.  Especially as Dowell himself was such a superb Ashton dancer.  And given that I think most people felt that the replacements were not a patch on the Ashton creations?

 

Edited to add, sorry if this takes the thread slightly off topic.

Edited by Fonty

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On 29/11/2018 at 14:59, Clara_f said:

Anyone see cojocaru and cirio in SL last night? I'd be intrigued about their partnership! Thank you! 

 the partnership worked well: Alina is Alina and Cirio was by far the most interesting Siegfried of Bristol run so far (I have not seen Caley that is dancing today matinee). He is a good  dancer with personality and empathy and can act: he definitely confirmed the good impression I had from his Lescaut and also Des Grieux (he was my favourite in the first solo adagio)

Edited by annamicro
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Last night was the end of the run at the Bristol Hippodrome, with Alina Cojocaru (the main reason we went!) and Jeffrey Cirio in the leads. I’d forgotten how ‘intimate’ the venue is - our position at the front (to one side) of the Grand Circle was only a few rows back from the edge of the orchestra pit. That proximity, plus Gavin Sutherland coaxing the ENB Phil’s volume control up to 11, produced some 'musical' decibel levels that matched those of Infra's 'noise' last week! 

 

I’d also forgotten this version starts with the transformation of the blue-dressed princess into a white-tutu’ed swan. That simple trick - carried out behind the huge, moth-like* wings of James Streeter’s Rothbart - helped set a magical tone for the rest of the evening.

*(and 'moth-like' is fairly appropriate, as he did have a habit of charging around the stage in circles, flapping his wings)

 

The only major role I’d seen Cirio play was Hilarion in AK’s Giselle; he played that ‘baddie’ so well I was a bit concerned how he would (even if he could!) play a ‘hero’. Well, my concerns were totally misplaced; his Siegfried was a suitably conflicted young prince, and his burgeoning love for Odette (and sense of loss when he ‘betrayed’ her) came across well. His dancing was also very impressive, though he did seem to be trying a bit too hard to impress during the Act 3 fireworks.

 

Alina, as expected, was classy. There was a calm confidence about her that transferred itself into virtually all her movements and then out to the audience. She literally ‘flowed’ through Act 2 - there was seldom a sense that her movements (especially slow ones) were fighting against gravity, it was more that gravity had been banished from the stage. That wasn’t as evident in Act 3; here, as with Cirio, there were occasions where the sheer effort involved started to become evident - but there were also a few balances and lifts that simply thrilled in their precision and time held.

 

Michael Coleman played Siegfried’s Tutor as he played the Pasha in Le Corsaire (and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) - fingers drumming on his rotund belly; a roving eye for the girls; short steps with body bobbing side-to-side. A bit of an eccentric figure of fun, and lots of fun to watch.

 

And talking of fun to watch, we became totally distracted in Act 3 by the antics of the two bald-headed ‘creatures’ that were Rothbart’s attendants. As in the retired RB production, Rothbart sat next to the Queen and his attendants sat either side of them during the various themed dances. And what disgusting, ill-mannered creatures they were! The one on the left seemed to be suffering from scabies - constantly scratching just about every part of his anatomy, and at one point gnawing his knee and then flossing his teeth to get the bits out with a strand of his costume. He might have looked scary, but he was a coward at heart - every time the dancers stamped their feet in the mazurka he’d jerk a few inches into the air, and ended up trying to hide behind Rothbart’s cloak!. The one on the right spend much of the time trying to get physical with one of the ladies-in-waiting, and she had to keep fending off his roving hands with her fan. Part way through all of this my eagle-eyed partner (well, binocular-eyed) whispered ‘is the one on the right Kobborg?’ It wasn’t easy to tell as their skull-caps extended down across their eyes and noses, but the lower half of his face (especially the mouth) looked right! We were finally convinced when (still sat down next to the Queen) he surreptitiously blew a kiss across the stage to the opposite wings just before Siegfried and Odile made their entrance for the big PDD, and also when he swept one arm around as if to ‘present’ Alina when she took her applause during the PDD.


Despite the staging being a bit ‘budget flat-pack’ compared to the opulent splendour of the RB production (an inevitable consequence of a touring production?), it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening (and that enjoyment was evident in the appreciation shown by the fairly packed house).

 

alina2.jpg

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Myself and my husband attended yesterday’s packed matinée of ‘Swan Lake’ - we sat in the middle and a few rows back from the front in the grand circle at the Bristol Hippodrome.  It was a full house for ENB’s penultimate performance in Bristol.  We had a good view of the stage from our seats.  

I  very much like this Derek Deane production with the opening scene that shows how Odette was kidnapped and transformed into a swan by Rothbart - magically transformed on stage too which brought some gasps from the audience.  In this performance Odette/Odile was danced by Shiori Kase and Rothbart by Daniel Kraus - who literally tore around the stage with his huge wings flapping somewhat wildly.  

After this brief scene we were transported to outside the palace gates.  Peter Farmer’s designs of rich muted dark greens, golds and reds and the sets reminded me of old paintings with slightly faded autumnal colours.

 Joseph Caley’s entrance as Siegfried was greeted with applause and he played the role with a quiet and elegant regality - beautiful lines in his aresbesques and soft controlled landings to his jumps throughout.  Michael Coleman mad much of his role as the Prince’s Tutor - you felt his affection and concern for the young Prince in Act 1.  The pas de Douze waltz was beautifully performed by the artistes of ENB and with the swirls of those beautiful velvet costumes was a pleasure to watch.  After this, Shale Wagman, Julia Conway and Francesca Velicu performed the pas de trois - both women were technically secure and had a beautiful lightness to their dancing - they made it look impressively easy. (I heard an audience member state just that).  Shale Wagman, for me, was one of the stand out dancers of the performance.  He is a new company member having won the gold medal and Nureyev Prize at this year’s PDL - his variation was outstanding and brought cheers from the audience - I think he will go far as he is already being given soloist roles within the company (he also dances the Neapolitan Dance in this production too).  It will be interesting to see where his career will take him.

 

Act 2 was outstanding (apart from some audience members noisily trying to get back to their seats during the overture - we were asked to remain seated after Act 1 as there was a quick 5 minute break before Act 2 but the orchestra was drowned by the noise of those that chose to ignore this advice which ruined the atmosphere a little).  Shiori Kase really suited the role of Odette - lyrical, technically secure and beautifully mimed sections - fiercely protective of her swans. She took the Odette variation at quite a slow pace initially holding her balances very strongly en pointe before melting into the next step - beautifully musical too - pulling out all the stops for the final sequence of turns en diagonale.

The corps of swans was again, very impressive - well rehearsed and working as one with immaculate lines and positions - well done to them.  I liked the two big swans of Tiffany Hedman and Isabelle Brouwers - using all the stage and working perfectly together.  The cygnets again, were perfectly co-ordinated with beautiful footwork and heads - they were rightfully spontaneously applauded at the end.

 

Cygnets - Alice Bellini, Francesca Velicu, Jung Ha Choi and Emilia Cadorin

 

Act 3 (with those fanatastic Peter Farmer muted colours again) flowed well with the various divertissements - all danced very well.  Erik Woolhouse really stood out with his presentation of the Spanish dance - I would of just watched him dance this on his own as he drew your eyes to him.  I love the Ashton Neapolitan dance and it was danced with great ‘joie de vivre’ by Adriana Lizardi and? this dancer had replaced Shale Wagman and I’m not sure who it was unfortunately but he was very good!

The Black Swan pas de deux was a highlight with Shiori Kase bringing gasps with her amazing balance and double fouéttes  - Joseph Caley was slightly outmatched by her stage presence I thought.  

 

Finally, Act 4 was a little disappointing when Odette and Siegfried jumped into the lake - instead of jumping off the parapet which was centre stage they disappeared off into the darker side of the stage so that it was difficult to see them - if you were not familiar with this part of the ballet you may of missed this completely. Odette jumped and then I could see her stand up and run off into the wing - which destroyed the effect of her disappearing into the lake - that’s my only criticism of this production though.

The corps were again, beautifully together in this act and the finale tableau with the mists rising and the sight of Odette and Siegfried flying over the lake was truly fairytale.  

 

The applause was long and loud at the end with people rising to their feet when the ENB Philharmonic conductor, Orlando Jopling, joined the dancers on stage - couldn’t fault the orchestra either.

 

In my opinion, ENB has currently one of the best productions of ‘Swan Lake’.  

 

Looking forward to the RB’s opening night of ‘Nutcracker’ next......

 

 

 

 

Edited by Springbourne3
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56 minutes ago, Springbourne3 said:

I love the Ashton Neapolitan dance and it was danced with great ‘joie de vivre’ by Adriana Lizardi and? this dancer had replaced Shale Wagman and I’m not sure who it was unfortunately but he was very good!

 

The dancer who replaced Shale Wagman was, apparently, Rhys Antoni Yeomans. IIRC he won the ballet section of the first BBC Young Dancer competition.

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3 hours ago, capybara said:

 

The dancer who replaced Shale Wagman was, apparently, Rhys Antoni Yeomans. IIRC he won the ballet section of the first BBC Young Dancer competition.

Thank you for that capybara.

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On 01/12/2018 at 13:39, annamicro said:

 the partnership worked well: Alina is Alina and Cirio was by far the most interesting Siegfried of Bristol run so far (I have not seen Caley that is dancing today matinee). He is a good  dancer with personality and empathy and can act: he definitely confirmed the good impression I had from his Lescaut and also Des Grieux (he was my favourite in the first solo adagio)

Thanks annamicro and Nogoat! 

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Quote

I was also at the Liverpool Empire on Friday night and I thought that the evening was quite special.

 

Thanks Terpsichore for your thoughts on this evening in Liverpool, I really enjoyed reading your blog, and it made me extra glad I'd seen this performance with Kanehara's debut.

 

Janet shame you were not able to see more performances sounds like there was a lot ENB had in the bag for this Swan Lake run.

 

Thanks to others for their thoughts on the continuing run in Bristol. Cojocaru did not dance in Liverpool, would have loved to see her again, I remember seeing her four years ago when she was in Liverpool and the thing that is most prominent in my memory is her brilliant virtuosic Odile.

 

Edited by northstar

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After a white-knuckle drive down the M4 to Bristol on a wet and very blustery Thursday afternoon, it was lovely to be greeted by the sunny smile and charm of Adriana Lizardi as the lead villager in the matinée performance of “Swan Lake”. With her sense of style and lovely footwork, she set the standard for the ladies in the ensemble dances, although it was not met by everyone.  Indeed, in the glorious Ashton waltz in Act I, I was surprised by the stiffness in the backbends and rather perfunctory ports de bras of most of the ladies and so my eye was continually drawn to Emily Suzuki for the sheer quality of her dancing, with beautiful use of the feet and head, pliant backbends and ports de bras that flowed – definitely a dancer to watch!  The pas de trois was beautifully danced by Shale Wagman, Jung ah Choi and Adela Ramirez with great style and exquisite footwork from all and a particularly thrilling coda.  The radiant Choi shone in the first solo with beautifully clear beats and ballon.  The always charming Ramirez is the only dancer I have seen in recent years who can make the second solo both flirtatious and demure at the same time while highlighting the delicacy of Petipa’s choreography.  Prince Siegfried at this performance was Aitor Arrieta substituting at very short notice for the indisposed Junor Souza.  Although it was obviously too short notice to change the cast sheet, I felt it was hugely disrespectful to Arrieta not to make an announcement at the start of the performance, along with the other announcements about recording etc.  There was also some sloppiness regarding the cast sheets because, when I picked mine up at the front desk, it was for the previous evening’s performance.  It turned out there were a few at the bottom of the pile which were correct but I wonder how many out-of-date ones were handed out!  Similarly, at the Saturday matinée, I heard the man behind me saying he was sure, through his binoculars, that the Odette was Japanese (and it was indeed Shiori Kase) but the programme said she was Romanian!  Obviously the wrong cast sheet had been placed in his programme and goodness knows how many others! I also noticed typing errors in dancers’ names which I find unforgivable.  Arrieta’s nobility was evident from his very first entrance and he danced with all the elegance and beautifully clean technique that I have come to expect from him.  Although not credited on the information sheet, the interpolated solo at the end of Act I was actually introduced by Nureyev to the Royal Ballet in 1962 and retained by Ashton when he revamped the company’s production a few years later and is a testament to Nureyev in his absolute prime.  It is therefore to Arrieta’s great credit that he gave such a stylish and beautifully phrased account of the fiendishly difficult adagio choreography, and did Nureyev proud.  There is a dilemma for theatres over the pause between Acts I and Il, especially when the orchestra pit has been extended into the stalls, i.e. whether to bring up the house lights and have those who did not listen to the announcements think this is an interval and get up to leave, or to leave the lights down which means that people do not hear when the delicate overture to Act II starts.  At this performance, although not advertised as a schools’ matinée, there were many school parties filling the seats (the ones surrounding me seemed to be about nine years old) who had obviously been primed to be quiet once the music started (and were much better behaved about this than the adults at other performances).  Conductor Orlando Jopling got round the problem of starting Act II by turning to the audience and placing his finger on his lips, at which all the children gradually stopped chattering which meant that this was the only one of the four performances I saw when I was able to enjoy the whole of that overture in complete silence!  I have seen neater and more stylish performances of Act II by the ENB corps de ballet of swans than the ones I saw this week but this hardly mattered when the Odette was danced by the miracle that is Begoña Cao.  I have loved her Odette/Odile since I first saw her dance it around ten years ago at the Coliseum (partnered by a very young Esteban Berlanga) and I would not have thought it possible for her to improve on the perfection of that performance but she did.  With her exquisitely limpid ports de bras, shimmering bourrées, and elongated attitude penchée, she has the most swan-like physique of any of the company’s Odettes, all used to sublime effect in portraying the regal yet vulnerable swan queen.  From the moment Arrieta saw her, it was clear he was enchanted and their pas de deux recalled the wonderful chemistry in their recent performances of “Manon”, with him partnering her with great tenderness to gradually gain Odette’s trust.  I have to mention Cao’s beautiful arms just before the start of the pas de deux, where her body is lying along her front leg.  As she folded her arms over her feet, there was a truly magical moment where they fluttered as if completely unencumbered by bones.  Another moment to watch out for is the series of pirouettes at the end, each one preceded by tiny batterie against the ankle which, in Cao’s case, were breathtaking in their delicacy and beauty, and enhanced her air of vulnerability.  The highlight for me in Act IIl, apart from the pas de deux, was a joyous rendering of the Neapolitan Dance by Katja Khaniukova and Victor Prigent, with delicious footwork and joie de vivre.  However, it was the electrifying pas de deux by Cao and Arrieta which stole the show.  Cao’s Odile is all wicked sensuality, dazzling Arrieta with her smile and her huge expressive eyes and it was clear he could not take his eyes off hers.  Cao used her phenomenal elongated attitude penchée, in which her foot was level with the top of Arrieta’s head, as if ensnaring him in a trap from which he obviously did not want to escape.  Just as Cao’s Manon luxuriated in her sensuality, so did her Odile in a beautifully seductive solo which had just enough of Odette’s softness to make it believable that she could deceive her prince. The fireworks in the Coda from both Arrieta and Cao brought forth ecstatic, spontaneous applause from the audience, as did many other moments in the performance, which is one of the joys of being amongst children seeing ballet for the first time.  Ashton’s exquisite choreography for Act IV (shrewdly acquired by Derek Deane for his proscenium production) was for me the highlight of the swans’ dancing at all the performances with its haunting melancholy as they all emerge from the swirling ‘mists’, and their uniformity of style and movement perfectly matched the music.  Cao and Arrieta were unforgettable here:  he all remorse and she summoning up supreme dignity as she forgives him.  This was an exceptional performance which I am sure will stay in the minds of the audience for a long time and will have made ballet fans of many of the children. It is therefore incomprehensible to me that Cao was only given one performance during the two-week tour and, as the Coliseum casting has just been announced, only has the final Sunday performance.  As with her Manon, grab a ticket if you can!

 

What a difference a change of conductor makes!  Thursday evening’s performance was in the hands of Maestro Gavin Sutherland who galvanised the orchestra and gave the music that lightness of touch which the dancers need to support them in the intricate footwork of the many solos and the lift to send them soaring in the aerial steps.  Unfortunately, I have to draw a veil over the pas de trois in this performance which, apart from a diagonal of beautiful double cabrioles from Erik Woolhouse in the Coda, for the most part lacked style and finesse.  However, the waltz brought forth some lovely dancing from both ladies and gentlemen, responding to Sutherland’s wonderful phrasing of the music. Prince Siegfried was Ken Saruhashi, whose outstanding debut I saw in Liverpool in 2014.  His Siegfried is a fully rounded character, both regal and thoughtful as he ponders his mother’s command for him to marry.  His Act I solo, with his beautiful arabesque line and soft pliés captured that elusive quality of yearning which is the essence of the solo but escapes so many Siegfrieds.  His Odette/Odile was Rina Kanehara who had made her debut the previous week.  She is possessed of a formidable technique which meant she sailed through all the difficulties of both roles and tossed off an impeccable series of fouetté turns in Act II, throwing in a few doubles for good measure.  However, she never let the brilliance of her technique overshadow the gentleness of her Odette and I particularly liked the way she used her eyes: wide-eyed apprehension in Act II, turning to tenderness as she learns to trust Siegfried, sparkling in Act III as she entrances him and haunted in Act IV when she has been betrayed.  Again, in Act III the other highlight was a sparkling Neapolitan danced by Crystal Costa and Barry Drummond in true Ashton style (another clever acquisition by Deane for his proscenium version), with both of them filling the stage with their sunny personalities.  There was also a fiery Spanish dance by Amber Hunt, Stina Quagebeur, Francisco Bosch and Fernando Coloma but I have to express my disappointment at the Czardas and Mazurka where, apart from all the lead couples in the Czardas and a couple of dancers such as Quagebeur in the Mazurka at other performances, these were danced with no understanding that they developed from Court dances of Hungary and Poland, respectively, and need to be danced with a degree of finesse and hauteur (and, for the ladies, no bouncing!) which was sadly missing, although the men certainly looked as if they were enjoying throwing themselves around!  Once again, Act IV brought forth the most beautiful dancing from the swans and a very poignant finale from Saruhashi and Kanehara with the wonderfully sinister Von Rothbart of Shevelle Dynott doing his best to thwart them.

 

On Friday evening, Arrieta and Costa were outstanding in their solos in the pas de trois.  They both have such clean footwork and amazing ballon which makes their energy seem boundless.  Francesca Velicu, completing the trio, brings a sweetness to her dancing and is lighter than air in the pas de deux section but is rather imprecise in her footwork and ports de bras. Siegfried was Isaac Hernandez.  With all his attributes, he should make an excellent prince but qualities such as nobility and projecting beyond the stage seem to elude him completely.  When his mother tells him he must marry, he looked like a sulky teenager rather than someone contemplating his destiny.  It appears he does not know what to do with his arms, letting them swing aimlessly at his side when walking. He has the most beautiful entrechats but otherwise tends to not bother about his feet and has a bad habit of dropping his back when landing from jetés.  I had high hopes for the Act I solo which he started with a beautifully stretched foot but thereafter it was just a series of adagio steps in which he looked uncomfortable.  I find it sad that such huge potential does not seem to be being nurtured so that the standard of his whole performance matches the pyrotechnics he displayed in Act III.  However, whatever his artistic failings, there is no doubt of his skill as a partner, presenting the divine Jurgita Dronina to perfection.  She is the most feminine of Odettes and totally captivating in her fragility and vulnerability, responding to every touch by Siegfried.  Physically very different from Cao, I found it fascinating to compare the way they both play to their strengths to produce such outstanding characterisations. Whereas Cao’s elongated attitude penchée said everything about her Odette and Odile, with Dronina it was the supported attitude leaning back against Siegfried which revealed her character.  In Act II, her very expressive eyes had a vulnerability about them which flowed through her whole body, as if she was not quite sure she could trust him.  In Act III, as he wrapped his arms around her, the look on her face was like the cat who got the cream, with a posture indicating a preening triumph.  In Act IV, there was an almost crumpled feeling of hopelessness in the droop of her neck and upper body which was intensely moving.  And while Cao’s bourrées shimmered, Dronina’s undulated.  In fact, there was a beautiful softness to all her dancing, even in Act III where it was clear Odile was seducing Siegfried by being as much like Odette as possible, although this did not prevent her from giving us an immaculate series of fouetté turns.   I also found her mime to be exemplary and beautifully clear.  When she explains her situation to Siegfried in Act II (where Hernandez looked distinctly uncomfortable in his gestures, ‘mumbling’ them), and she says “my mother’s tears” I found this to be very moving, as it was in Act IV when she repeats “tears” while explaining Siegfried’s betrayal to the other swans.  Although she does not have Cao’s ‘boneless’ arms, I loved the proud arch of her back in Act II, especially in arabesque with her arms stretched out behind her, and even sustaining it in the half-turns in attitude, which reminded me of a swan gliding along with its wings ‘lifted’.  As well as a performance to treasure from Dronina, this performance was also notable for a flawless cygnets’ dance.  Although there were individually lovely cygnets in other performances (and I much admired Choi’s beautiful échappés on Saturday afternoon), it was in this one that everything was perfectly synchronised, including the tricky series of pas de chat with legs all at the same height at the same time and soft landings in perfect unison. Congratulations to Crystal Costa, Adela Ramirez, Katja Khaniukova and Adriana Lizardi for giving it the wow factor!  The radiant Adela Ramirez also delighted in the Neapolitan dance, along with the excellent Rhys Antoni Yeomans, and there was a very spirited Spanish dance from Jia Zhang, Angela Wood, Aitor Arrieta and Daniel McCormick. 

 

On Saturday afternoon, Anjuli Hudson was a delightfully stylish lead villager, and my eye was again drawn to the beautiful dancing of Emily Suzuki in the waltz which also featured some very fine dancing and partnering from the gentlemen.  Joseph Caley was nobility personified from his first entrance as Siegfried and danced with a wonderful elegance, especially in the Act l solo, although I would have liked a little more expressiveness from him, especially as his Odette/Odile was the lovely Shiori Kase whose every movement spoke volumes.  Her Odette was so regal that there was no doubt she was queen of the swans.  And yet, there was a touching vulnerability about her that made her pas de deux with Caley, in which he made her look as light as swansdown, very poignant.  Her solo was a lovely blend of delicate, precise footwork and sustained balances, such that I realised the photograph of her being used to advertise “The Nutcracker” does not do justice to the very pretty, expressive line of her arabesques and attitudes.  Her Odile was glittering and full of confidence, especially in the Coda in which not only did she give us the full complement of thrilling fouettés but ended the last one with at least a triple turn, if not a quadruple!  In Act IV, her Odette forgave the very remorseful Siegfried with a touching dignity and their final pas de deux was heartbreaking.  The corps de ballet of swans also rose to the occasion with a particularly haunting quality to their dancing which obviously touched the souls of the audience, many of whom were applauding on their feet even before the curtain had fallen.

 

I hope in this very long post I have whetted appetites for the London performances!

 

 

 

 

 

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I also noticed typing errors in dancers’ names which I find unforgivable.

 

That, unfortunately, has been going on for many years.  Surely it is not beyond the capabilities of whatever department produces the cast sheets to put all the dancers' names into the spellchecker and then make sure it is run on each cast sheet?

 

Thank you, Irmgard, for that very detailed review.  I'm sorry I couldn't get down to Bristol for that matinee, because I shan't be able to make Cao's (as you say) one performance in London.  However, I am determined not to miss her Manon!

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