26 January 2014

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake at Sadler's Wells

I have seen Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake a few times, including a previous performance at Sadler's Wells, and there is always room to see it again.

This time I deliberately caught the very last performance of the series as it was almost perfectly timed for my birthday on the following day.

Knowing Sadler's Wells reasonably well I was happy to go for the cheap seats (£32) in the front row of the Second Circle (A5). I was perfectly happy with that as I had a good view of the full stage and no heads to look over.

The last time that I saw Swan Lake, at Wimbledon, was with recorded music so it was nice to have a proper orchestra this time. There were not that many of them, and the pit looked quite empty, but they made plenty of noise. Another advantage of being up high was being able to see them.

Swan Lake was magical from the well-known opening bar. The long success of the ballet is largely due to Tchaikovsky's music.

Matthew Bourne's version of the story has become familiar too and so there were no surprises there.

The richness and the variety of the movement is what had brought me back for another dose. There is so much going on all the time so there is lots of dancing that I had either missed previously or had forgotten.

Of course there was much that I remembered, and loved, too. Things like the frantic dancing in the Swank nightclub and the perky little dance with the four cygnets.

Bourne's choreography is all about arms. They swoop and sway around the head and torso, pulling the upper body in to dramatic shapes with them as they do so. It's quite different from the traditional leaping or the contemporary tumbling and that adds to its interest. The dancing also looks deceptively simple, because it lacks the physical pyrotechnics, and if I had the slightest dancing ability I would like to learn one of their pieces and use it next time I get invited to a ball (not that I ever get invited to balls).

The other feature of the choreography is the ensemble work with so much going on all the time. Again this is a big change from the traditional ballets that I grew up with where only the soloists moved so as not to distract you from them.

Swan Lake was as beautiful and dramatic as I remembered and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Familiarity most definitely does not breed contempt in this case and I'll be going to see it again sometime.

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