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I saw the opening night performance of the new Swan Lake last night at the Liverpool Empire.  

I didn't like it one bit  :( it was all too minimalist and grey not helped by drab costumes, wishy washy lighting and a very loud orchestra!  The dance was so so but the first Act had some very messy choreography and I could not see any acting going on, so had I not read the synopsis I would have been clueless as to what this version was attempting to convey.  Never have I wished a Swan Lake to be over before. Trying to find a positive the best bit was Act 4 and there were some good big lifts throughout.  Others that I have spoken to liked it and it got a 4 star review (really?!) but it wasn't for me I'm afraid.  Interested to hear any other views.

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I saw the first 3 performances at the Empire this week.


I knew something of what to expect from the reviews after the premiere so I knew it was not going to be in any way, shape or form a traditional Swan Lake production.  The set was basically a white box with some grey and was quite bland but not offensive.  I thought the lighting was disappointingly static.  I didn't notice much use of spotlights following the main dancers either.  Effective lighting can really enhance a production but this lighting scheme did not help at all.  It's just as well the choreography was fab!


I absolutely loved the swirly choreography in the opening scenes and I really liked the costumes.  The lovely floaty, draped dresses for the girls really enhanced the choreography (although I may have chosen slightly brighter colours myself).  The men's costumes were simple black leggings (grey for Siegfried) and long sleeved t-shirt style tops.  My one bug-bear about the men's tops was that those for Benno and Siegfried were respectively mustard and blue and oh boy did they show the sweat stains under the arms - it was quite off-putting.  There was some great bromance choreography for Benno and Siegfried and the other men.


I liked the plot concept that Benno was a party animal and Siegfried was his party-pooping friend who gets irritated by Benno constantly trying to match-make.  As the party dances off to continue inside (it is mimed that it has started to rain) Siegfried stays outside and encounters the Swan-ladies.  I loved the choreography and loathed the costumes.  The lady who designed them has obviously never seen the Bridget Jones film with the large M&S knickers!  Again the choreography had the swans in continual, swirling motion.


The white swan adagio was absolutely exquisite and, on the first night, Sophie Martin was utterly sublime as the Swan.  The dance to the cygnets music was quirky but I loved the big swans majestic dance.


The party in act 2 had Benno trying even harder to match-make.  Siegfried was immediately besotted when Odile turned up with 4 minders.  (But why were the minders wearing masks).  It was obvious that Odile was a gold-digging flirt who abandoned Siegfried when she had got the jewel, leading to his devastation and return to the swans who ultimately left him too as he had betrayed Odette.


I was quite emotionally uninvolved on the first night but saw more in the production with each subsequent viewings.  By last night I had a lump in my throat at the end!  The cast that touched me the most was Constance Devernay, Andrew Peasgood and Victor Varallo (last night's cast) but I'm not sure if that was solely because I had become familiar with the nuances of the production.


For me, it definitely worked seeing several performances and overall I really enjoyed the production.  It has got a lot to offer.  I would love to see it again!

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I saw this in Edinburgh and thoroughly enjoyed the performance.


I attended an Insights event beforehand so had a good idea of what to expect (i.e. no tutus!). At the Insight, the (excellent) presenter explained that David Dawson took inspiration from the idea of swans as goddesses and that he wanted the dancers to feel empowered (much to the delight of my inner feminist :)). She made it clear that the Tchaikovsky score was pretty much the only aspect of the production which has stayed true to the traditional Swan Lake, but also said that she was proud of the company for pushing boundaries and challenging audiences' expectations of classical ballet. All in all, it was a great event. 


As for the performance, the thing that struck me most was the big, expansive movements in the choreography - it was lovely to see this from all of the dancers on stage, not just principals and soloists. There was a moment in the third act when the swans were doing a beautiful port de bras (which Luke Jennings has described as "impressive and strange, like discovering the Bulgarian synchronised swimming team practising in your local pool") that I absolutely loved. I didn't particularly notice the greyness of the set/lighting/costumes etc, but perhaps that's because I was sat in the front stalls so had lots of detail to focus on.


The costumes were created by the dancewear designer Yumiko. They looked absolutely beautiful up close at the Insight, but lots of details were lost on stage, even from a couple of rows back. I understand the dancers were asked to rehearse in leotards and shorts only in preparation for the skimpy costumes.  


Overall, I love the traditional Swan Lake and didn't recognise much of it in this production, but I think there's room for both. Seeing Constance Devernay promoted to principal at the end of the performance was also a great end to the evening. 

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I saw it last night and enjoyed it very much indeed.

Even though the ballet had been restructured and every step created from scratch I found a lot of Petipa in the ballet. All the essentials of the story are there and I think it has been distilled into a very powerful concoction. There were also echoes of Petipa even in the choreography. For instance the cygnets' dance was still a pas de quatre albeit a free flowing and individual one and in the seduction scene in the equivalent of the black act first Siegfried and then Odette danced fouettes.


I must say that I travelled to Liverpool with some trepidation because I don't take kindly to taking liberties with my favourite ballet but Dawson has not done that. I think Petipa might have approved and Darrell almost certainly would have been proud of this production.

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I am glad that so many liked this production.  I am thinking that I may have suffered from being too far away up in the Circle as most who were closer to the stage seem to have enjoyed this.  I really did want to like this too!  I could certainly see spotlights from my position.  I so agree about the sweaty shirts I think they need some new natural fibre shirts for the men - some ladies on the way out were saying how off putting it was and that they(SB) only had to pop down to Primark to get some extra t-shirts that the dancers could change into throughout the performance!

I think it may have helped me had SB also run an insight event or pre performance talk at Liverpool too, but thank you Lily for telling us about the Insight you attended.  

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