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REVIEW - Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake is elegant, spellbinding and perfect for all ages!


On Thursday, we were invited to The Lowry in Salford to see Birmingham Royal Ballet's Swan Lake. Read what our reviewer, Lizzie Johnston had to say about this incredible production...

Swan Lake
is arguably one of the most popular and well-loved ballets around with its magical story of the transforming swan and popular choreography becoming references throughout pop culture. I’ve been a fan of this ballet ever since I was first mesmerised by the 2003 animation Barbie of Swan Lake, with Odette instantly becoming my favourite doll. My love for this film led to a girls trip to the theatre to watch the ballet, my first one, many years ago and the music (and tutus!) has been etched into my brian ever since. So, I was super excited to go to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production and re-experience the magic. 

An eclectic mix of audience piled into the theatre with people of all ages buzzing to see the magic of the ballet. From old to young, to dance troops and family groups, it’s a theatre show that attracts anyone. It’s a classical form of entertainment and there’s an aura of excitement around the idea of going to the ballet, people tend to use it as a chance to get dressed up a bit fancier and it feels like a proper treat of a theatre outing. 

The story of
Swan Lake is one of romance, jealousy and hope. It follows Prince Siegfried who falls in love with Princess Odette after seeing her transform from a graceful swan into a beautiful woman. He learns of the spell cast upon her by evil sorcerer Baron von Rothbart which keeps her in swan form from dawn to dusk. The Price is utterly smitten and plans to break the spell, but Rothbart has other plans. At the Prince’s ball, Rothbart tricks the Prince into believing his daughter Odile is the real Odette, with the Prince none the wiser, he declares his love for her. Back at the lake, the Prince explains his mistake to Odette who tells him the spell cannot be broken after he has declared his love for someone else. Despite this, the two decide to live in a world of eternal love together. 

The story is split into four acts and the fantastic choreography by
Lev Ivanov, Marius Petipa and Peter Wright, alongside the staging and costumes make it easy to follow and understand. It’s a simple story of finding true love paired with the elegance of Tchaikovsky’s famous score. The four acts allow for multiple intervals, allowing the opportunity for breaks, although the whole production is captivating and the time flies by. 

Principal dancer,
Momoko Hirata’s Odette was utterly stunning. She truly stood out as the star. Every part of her moved with such grace, all the way to her fingertips, you could really believe she had been transformed into a swan the way she glided across the stage. As Princess Odette, she was sweet and gentle, compared to her portrayal of Odile, Rothbart’s daughter, as a jealous, calculating woman on a mission. As soon as she entered as Odile in the third act, you could have mistaken her for another dancer, the subtle changes in movement and the shift of attitude created a great contrast to the lovable Odette. 

Dancing opposite
Hirata as Prince Siegfried was Principal Mathias Dingma. Dingman’s version of the Prince was comparable to the classic fairytale-esque character, trustworthy, a good leader and captivated by love. His connection with Odette was undeniable, the way the two worked as a pair to show their affection for each other was stunning and beautiful to watch. When dancing the infamous pas de deux with Odile in the third act, you could tell he was completely bewitched by her and the sorcerer’s spell with his eyes fixated on her movements. |

The pas de deux in act three was incredible.
Hirata and Dingma are dynamic talents who make the most difficult choreography look easy. The infamous 32 fouettes performed by Hirata left the audience feeling dizzy but not her! She ended the routine with pure grace and not even the slightest sign of breathlessness. Dingma’s fantastic leaps and jumps reached insane heights before landing as light as a feather. 

The set was like an oil painting you would fit in an art gallery, grand and completed with the tiniest details to completely transform the stage. There were two sets which alternated between the acts, from the medieval palace to the enchanted lake. The palace was grand with the colours matching the costumes to make the whole production come to life and transport us back in time. The setting of the lake was dull and dark, but this created an incredible contrast against the white swans and almost gave a monochrome effect.  The costumes were magnificent, expensive looking and majestic royal gowns made the simple, bright and iconic white tutus stand out even more. 

The Swan Maidens in the final act appear as if by magic, it even made the audience let out an audible gasp, showing how captivated they were.When all 18 of the white swans performed together in sync, it was incredible, and goes to show that special effects are not needed to create this magic, choreography and staging can have the same effect and completely take the audience by surprise. It’s a truly exquisite production of a true ballet classic.

Royal Ballet Sinfonia orchestra, led by Robert Gibbs, was fantastic. Live music is an amazing experience on its own and a beautifully classical score like Tchaikovsky’s holds its own, but when paired with the performers on stage, it becomes an almost immersive experience and it pulls you right in to being there, at the lake, with them. The way the dancers and the musicians work together to time everything so perfectly is impeccable, every leap and turn hit the beat without any missteps.

One thing that stood out to me was not on the stage but in fact in the programme. A short, doodled storyboard of the show simplified for kids so they knew exactly what was happening in every act. The whole show is suitable for younger audience members with multiple intervals giving opportunities for quick breaks, although the show is so captivating it does feel like it flies by. 

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake is classic, elegant and spellbinding. You find yourself lost in the incredible storytelling told through the beauty of dance which brings this enchanted love story to life. It’s a ballet suitable for all ages, partnered with an iconic, recognisable score which will be left waltzing around your brain. If a ballet is what you’re after, this is not one to miss. Utterly beautiful. 



Birmingham Royal Ballets' Swan Lake is on at The Lowry until Saturday 4th March.



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