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Swan Lake by Birmingham Royal Ballet - Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Classic ballet glides back to Birmingham
With new director Carlos Acosta aiming to shake up Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) with fresher, bolder productions and world premieres, classics like this could be few and far between.

Swan lake, birmingham Hippodrome


Acosta has exciting plans for a summer dance festival in June - Curated By Carlos - that will have a contemporary edge including dancing robots and his version of Don Quixote. So lots to look forward to there.

Before that, BRB has brought back this hugely popular Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake to Birmingham Hippodrome from February 18 until February 29.

Swan Lake is the ultimate tragic love story with an enchantingly beautiful score by the Russian composer, performed exquisitely by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. The music is one of the fortes, instantly recognisable and dramatic. You'll be humming it for days.

BRB is blessed with a lavish production created by Peter Wright that whisks the audience away to a moonlit lake where a swan can transform into a beautiful princess, who has been cursed by an evil spell.

Swan lake, birmingham Hippodrome birmingham royal ballet
The famous black swan in Swan Lake


For newcomers to ballet, it's the iconic image of classic ballet - white tutus along with the "black swan", now even more famous after the Natalie Portman film.

Swapping between a palace, where a young prince is being pressured to find a bride, and the woods where he late at night discovers love and enchantment with the cursed princess, there's opportunities for dazzling sets and costumes.

Over four acts, this is a long ballet and is slow to get going but as soon as the swans enter with principal dancer Celine Gittens, you are completely mesmerised.

Gittens has to be one of the best ballet dancers in the country and is hypnotising on stage, right until her swan song in the finale.

Opposite her is another BRB talent, Tyrone Singleton, as Prince Siegfried. They make an ideal partnership for the pas de deux, but Swan Lake is all about the swan and this is Gittens' show.

Swan lake, birmingham Hippodrome birmingham royal ballet
Classic ballet scenes in Swan Lake


The ballet has a good mix of ensembles, lyrical pas de deux and bravura solos. Act Three is the most entertaining as various possible brides are paraded in front of the Prince, each performing dances from their native country. It makes way for Neopolitan and Spanish dances, in the same vein as in The Nutcracker.

The drama steps up a gear when evil Black Swan Odile enters, disguised as Odette to fool the Prince into marriage. It gives Gittens the chance to show her bad side, which see seems to particularly relish.

It's the lake scenes that are the most atmospheric and none more so than in Act Four, when it opens to mist rising across the stage from which the Swan Maidens appear. Absolutely stunning and the moment that stays with you long after leaving the theatre.

The pace quickens during the latter acts to give the production more momentum towards the romantic yet devastating finale.

It's a classic that has stood the test of time and will wrap you in a cocoon of enchantment.

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Why? See stunning classic ballet and love story Swan Lake
When: Until 29 Feb, 2020
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street, Birmingham
Cost: From 21.50
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