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Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
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Swan Lake is probably the world's most famous and most favourite ballet. It's atmospheric and beautiful, and shows dancers at their most lovely, yet also most skilful. This ballet has so many visual and audio highlights that even if you're not a balletophile it won't send you to sleep.

First there's the grand entrance of – seems like hundreds of – swans. Then the chirpy dance of the little swans (cygnets), then the drama of the first grand pas de deux, and the feisty appearance of the black swan in the ballroom act (and her famous 32 fouettes), then the tragic reprises of the pas de deux in the final throws of the ballet. So many things to look forward to, I promise.

It's likely that you'll recognise some of the music as well – even if it's only because it's been used in numerous advertisements over the years. Tchaikovsky is behind the loveliness of the score, both the gentle romance of it and the bombastic drama. It's a cliché to say it - because this ballet has both a black swan and a white swan (Odile, and Odetter respectively, played by the same dancer) - but there's plenty of light and shade to this piece and behind that light and shade is the music, which drives the choreography. Tchaikovsky was a master of the ballet score.

This production, meaning the first time these costumes and this exact choreography and staging was used was 1987, but the ballet itself was first performed in 1877. You may be a little disappointed to see that not all of the swans are tutu clad – they've gone for a less harsh design for the moonlit, lakeside scenes, and the filmy dresses are certainly more ethereal – but the winter ballroom scene is very fancy, referencing the opulence of Imperial Russia at the time the ballet was premiered.

If you haven't been to a ballet before, or you haven't been to many, then you should also take note that this is a very virtuoso performance, very demanding of the whole company, but especially of the two leads. The light and shade of the music requires great versatility in these dancers, and none more than the female lead who must play both, vunerable, queenly and slightly sad Odette and more predatory, brash and angular Odile. My personal preference for artists to see in the lead roles would be Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg on the 10th of Feb. and the 5th of March (she's a wonderful Odette) and poster couple Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta on the 7th of March, the 12th of March and the 18th of March (she's a wonderful Odile).
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Why? If you only ever see one ballet...
When: 27th Feb. until the 4th April
Where: Bow Street Covent Garden WC2E 9DD, nearest station Covent Garden
Cost: From £6
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