Swan Lake is probably the most danced and most variable of classical ballets. With its sumptuous music and compelling drama, its appeal is undimmed, but it is also a large-scale company piece that requires lead dancers and corps, musicians and designers to work as part of a single dramatic and choreographic narrative. Without this, it can be an uneven showcase which disconnects the steps from the story.
And so it is with the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre. The independent Russian touring troupe is committed and features many able dancers, not least its star ballerina Irina Kolesnikova whose long limbs and airy extensions are the epitome of classical dance. Her technique and allure are in no doubt, but by Western standards, she is overworked, dancing seven Swan Lakes in as many days. Her workload and prominence dims the ballet’s other lead characters, with Prince Siegfried (Denis Rodkin guesting from the Bolshoi) making less impact than his role requires. The same is true of the evil spirit Rothbart (Dmitry Akulinin) whose malevolence barely registers. On opening night, there was little chemistry between these three, meaning the emotional risk taken by Odette and Siegfried is underplayed, as is the eventual triumph of good over evil (this is a happy-ending Swan Lake).
With just 22 swans, the all-important lakeside scene was perhaps a little thin, although the dancers’ even size and neat footwork gave it small-scale coherence. Special mention for Miho Naotsuka who stood out as one of the big swans and also in the Act I pas de trois.