Swan Lake is undoubtedly one of the ballet greats and this performance by Ballet Theatre UK featured new choreography by artistic director Christopher Moore and some really beautiful costumes, designed by Daniel Hope. The gasp of the little girl sitting next to me in the audience as the swan’s classic tutu was revealed testified to their magical effect: mouth open, she crept to the edge of her seat and sat forward for the whole of the second act, apparently dazzled by the layers of tulle and sequins and feathers, lit beautifully in this small and intimate theatre.
Founded only in 2008, Ballet Theatre UK raises awareness of dance within the community by being accessible to people from all ages and walks of life, both nationally and internationally and is inspired by an eclectic mix of classical dance, theatre, popular culture and literature, informing new and innovative versions of those classics.
Featuring Natalie Cawte as Odette (White Swan), Claire Corruble Cabot as Odile (Black Swan) and Vincent Cabot as the Prince, the company managed the smaller stage space at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds well although at times it was possible to identify where the scale of the wide sweeping sequences of dance steps had to be reined in.
From the first strains of Tchaikovsky’s haunting score, so many of us think we know all there is to know about this most famous of ballets and so the ending of this (I won’t spoil it by giving it away), modified as it is and featuring a dramatic piece of staged sword play was a pleasant surprise. The portrayal of the innocent Princess Odette by Natalie Cawte – cursed to spend the hours of daylight as a swan by the evil sorcerer was the perfect and pure counterbalance to the dramatically confident and assertive to the point of aggressive Odile, danced with great attitude and audacity by Claire Corruble Cabot . The power and psychological effect of the fouettés en tournant which characterise the role of Odile coupled with the most assertive arabesque I have seen in a while made her compelling to watch although some of the expressive and more actorly gestures might be toned down a small notch. This would leave her competent dancing to communicate nuance of character. Cawte, as Odette fluttered across the stage, her delicately articulated body and arms and precise footwork a well maintained depiction of a bird that masks great power with a feathered lightness. Great head placement and subtlety made her lovely to watch.
Vincent Cabot as the Prince provided us with a well controlled and understated adage variation in which he lamented the news that he must make a wise marriage as opposed to one of the heart: again the stage size limited his leaps and elevation throughout the performance but he managed to depict a Prince dutiful but with a capricious romance in his heart. A duet during the palace scene with Robert Noble and Inês Ferriera was tentative at times but carried a charm, perhaps, because of this. Other highlights were the playful and piquant Polonaise and a coquettish and spirited Neapolitan solo alongside the competent and well timed corps de ballet who pulled off the en masse fluttering of the swan flock despite a smaller number of dancers in the corps.
Altogether a lovely version performed by a young company who already are punching well above their age-weight- Well done.