Peter Schaufuss’ Tchaikovsky Trilogy is a re-working of the composer’s three famous ballet scores - Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. Schaufuss has imagined them as three linked dreams - a bad dream, a sensual dream and a happy one - with a so-called Dream Master conjuring the action and guiding the plot. Re-working Tchaikovsky has been done a lot, and anyone doing it after Matthew Bourne and Mats Ek - to name just two choreographers to do so successfully - has to bring new ideas and innovative steps, as the famous ballets still work supremely well when danced in their traditional, Petipa-choreographed form.
Alban Lendorf (Siegfried), centre, in Swan Lake by at the Coliseum, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Schaufuss’ shortcoming is not his dancers, who are committed, nor Tchaikovsky himself - sadly played from a pre-recording - but his staying too close to the original story without adding anything new psychologically or choreographically. His style is best described as pop-ballet, a combination of athletic classicism and quirky gestures, but it is not used to reveal character or motive. Another shortcoming is the lighting, which is muddy and makes it difficult to see the dancers who are dressed in flowing dresses and ballet flats rather than tutus and pointe shoes.
This opening Swan Lake is a narrative muddle - if you don’t know the story of the Princess turned into a Swan (Megumi Oki) by the evil magician Von Rothbart (Irek Mukhamedov), you would not understand it from Schaufuss’ ballet. This is a pity, as the dancers work hard and have some ability - Alban Lendorf as Siegfried has energy and precision, and would shine in a more nuanced work.