The United Ukrainian Ballet: Swan Lake – Theatre Review

Last night, after 32 years, I had a first life experience. I went to the ballet.

Honestly something I never thought I would do. I always thought it was just boring, weird dancing that snobby, rich old people went to. Oh boy, was I so wrong. I’m the snobby one, and I’ve been cutting myself off from such an amazing form of art and expressionism. I am a fool! 

Swan Lake is quite possibly one of the world’s best-known ballets, having been composed by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875. Swan Lake is a classic love story of a royal prince and heir to the throne, being forced into an arranged marriage. When the prince discovers a beautiful woman in the woods, who turns into a swan during the day due to a wicked curse, he must surrender his eternal love to her to break the curse. But the evil sorcerer who casted the spell will try everything he can to prevent the curse from being broken. 

The United Ukrainian Ballet, a ballet company that formed in early 2022, are currently touring Australia presenting their rendition of Swan Lake. The show is presented in 3 acts, with the first being presented in two scenes, with a short break between them to allow for set changes. 

The sets were actually quite stunning, even though they weren’t anything super extravagant or over the top. A backdrop was used to create a background, and several set drops were used to create a frame and add depth to the stage, which was really effective. In some of the palace scenes there were props used too, such as seats and a royal throne. My favourite set was definitely the lake in the woods with tall trees arching over the stage. When the curtain rose and the set was covered with a thick fog, and dark and blue moody lighting, it was absolutely stunning! 

Of course, what good is a beautiful stage without incredibly talented performers to grace it? There’s certainly no shortage of those in The United Ukrainian Ballet.

Kateryna Chebykina graces the stage as Odetta and Odile, the amazing female lead of the show, who performs with such beauty and elegance, her movements are precise, and she hovers about the stage almost effortlessly. It is obvious she has great skill and a huge passion for dance. Paired with Oleksii Kniazkov who takes on the role of Prince Siegfried, her performance is taken to another level. They bring great energy to the stage, melding together fluidly and they have wonderful chemistry to achieve such an outstanding performance. 

Pavlo Zurnadzhi as the Jester and Oleksiy Grishum as Rothbart also need to be commended for their performances. Zurnadzhi provided some great solo dances, along with his ensemble numbers, and provide great relief and humour to the show. On the other hand, Grishum was dark and brooding, with heavy menacing makeup that suited his role so well. He was outstanding and I loved the extra dimension his character gave to the show.

It’s truly amazing how much of a story you can tell with just music and dance! I went in with little clue on what Swan Lake was about but was able to put together the story along the way. Following the show, I picked up the programme, which fleshed it out, but I had most of it right! I was quite surprised. 

This show is stunningly crafted and performed by such passionate and dedicated artists. To create a dance company and put together an international touring show in less than 12 months is mind blowing, and you wouldn’t even know it. I’m sure a more seasoned ballet attender would have picked some flaws, but to me, the show was perfect

It was also incredibly emotional, especially at the end of the show, as a packed Adelaide Festival Theatre crowd delivered a standing ovation as the Ukrainian national anthem filled the auditorium. The cast of performers and the behind-the-scenes crew stood triumphantly on stage, celebrating their success. This moment was incredibly powerful and so emotional for not only those on stage, but also the attendees.

The United Ukrainian Ballet’s Swan Lake has already graced stages in Melbourne and Sydney, and is now on at Adelaide Festival Theatre from November 9th to November 13th 2022. It should not be missed!
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Photography by Ben Vella.

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