I have a confession to make. While I do consider myself to be well versed in theatre, I had never been to the ballet before. I however have always been curious about it. So, when the opportunity came for me to see the St Petersburg Ballet production of Swan Lake, I leaped at it.
Swan Lake is the most famous, most popular and recognised ballet of all time. Even those who aren’t ballet buffs would know of it, having been referenced in various media such as animated feature, The Swan Princess and psychological horror film, Black Swan which Natalie Portman won an Oscar for. In Swan Lake we follow the story of Siegfried and Odette, where a prince falls in love with a maiden who has been cursed to be a swan and can only become human at night, provided she stays by enchanted lake where she lives.
The prestigious Russian dance company, St Petersburg Ballet were incredibly impressive. I was surprised by how loud their thuds were on-stage when the dancers jumped about but was also in awe of their precision, discipline and technique. I thoroughly enjoyed prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova’s interpretation of Odette and Odile. The contrast being quite clear when she plays Odette as delicate, hesitant, graceful and pure, while villain Odile is portrayed as sexy, dynamic, dangerous and feisty. You’d be forgiven if you thought that these two roles were played by two completely different dancers. The costumes were detailed and beautiful, while the sets were minimal to give the performers space to dance. The most elaborate set would be during Act 3, when Siegfried meets Odile at his castle, mistaking her for his love, Odette.
Although new to ballet, I was no stranger to Tchaikovsky’s music, with his compositions being the most familiar and recognisable part for me of this production, which I witnessed being beautifully married to dance right before my eyes for the first time. After watching St Petersburg Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake, while I can’t say that I’m an expert, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. You don’t have to be a dancer or ballet expert to enjoy this show (although I’m sure it helps). If you’re a fan of dance, theatre or you’re just curious like I was, I believe that everyone should see the ballet at least once. And if you’re going to the ballet at least once, you should see Swan Lake. The St Petersburg Ballet production is the ‘happy-end’ version of Swan Lake and is appropriate to take any tiny dancer along for the journey.
I’ve always wondered what Barbra Streisand was singing about when she said the line, “Everything was beautiful at the ballet.” But now that I’ve finally seen the ballet for myself, I understand. Seeing the ballet is an experience like no other which I highly recommend. I have been told that you either love or hate the ballet, and I for one loved it.
St Petersburg Ballet’s Swan Lake is now on at the recently refurbished Princess Theatre in Melbourne and will be there until July 1. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.