Swan Lake – York Grand Opera House

Event: Swan Lake -Vienna Festival Ballet
Venue:York Grand Opera House
Date:Wednesday 26 November
Rating: **

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is one of the best-known love stories of all time. Transporting the audience through a wide range of emotions from hope to despair, terror to tenderness, melancholy to ecstasy; the Swan Lake story is perfectly suited to the medium of dance. Founded by Austrian dancer and artistic director, Peter Mallek, The Vienna Festival Ballet is renowned for its use of surprisingly young dancers. They are usually hailed for their “vitality, energy, and freshness”, it was a shame that after the first act I saw the performance as “nervous, inexperienced and lacking unity”. The corps, or main chorus of dancers, were not together in their timing or positioning of hands and feet, the third lead male lacked any sense of strength in his legs and finish to his moves; even the solo dancers wobbled through their pirouettes. Only the court jester, who bounded and teased with admirable athleticism, demonstrated the advantage of a youthful ensemble.

Nevertheless, the dancing did improve slightly into act two, moving from the gaudily painted court palace into the more delicate shade of the mysterious wood. It was here that we met the star of the show, prima ballerina Yuka Ebihara from the Norwegian National Ballet, who was to play both the white and black swan roles. The very fact that Ebihara had to play both leads showed how much more accomplished she is than the rest of the troupe. Ebihara was however a delight to watch and her beautifully effortless solo dances captured the delicacy of the swans wings and the intimacy of the love story.

It was unfortunate that the company, regularly performing for only one night at each venue, were unable to tour with an orchestra. The famous Tchaikovsky score, which usually engulfs the audience as it rises from the orchestral pit, was reduced to a CD soundtrack playing from speakers that distributed the sound poorly around the theatre. Overall, a disappointing night that was redeemed only by the captivating performance given by Yuka Ebihara who soared high above the rest of her flock.

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