Review: Moscow City Ballet - Swan Lake & The Nutcracker, Richmond Theatre, London

Swan Lake

Wednesday 18 January 2012 - After watching Natalie Portman in ‘Black Swan’ I came to watch Moscow City Ballet’s interpretation of Swan Lake with some knowledge of the tragic story but not enough to really know what the details were. Tchaicovsky’s dramatic score was played with deep emotion by the orchestra and the simple scenery and costumes left the dancers to take centre stage.

The female ensemble danced with accuracy and awareness of each other and I felt they did their best considering the small stage of Richmond Theatre. In parallel, the male chorus provided a state of nobility to the courtiers and guests during Prince Siegfried’s 21st birthday celebrations and betrothal ball, but I just thought they needed to be more aware of each other during the parts in unison. It is during these court scenes that a special mention must go towards the court’s jester who leaps and jumps about with precision and skill whilst emitting a witty sense of humour through his face and deliberate stumbles.

The treat of this production is the sylph-like swan Odette (danced by Lilia Oryekhova). Her execution of the role is stunning with beautiful arabesque lines and steps supported by immense core strength and flexibility, all the while making it look effortless. A particular highlight was the Pas De Deux with Prince Siegfried (danced by Talgat Kozhabaev) which oozed love and emphasised the deep trust needed between two dance partners in order to execute lifts and challenging steps. Odette’s transformation into evil Von Rothburt’s daughter Odile is wilder and uses a more seductive facial expression, tempting Prince Siegfried to fall in love with her. It was particularly effective to a have a half white-half black tutu that allowed for the sudden switches between the innocent Odette and the temptress Odile.

All in all, this was a lovely interpretation of Swan Lake and I am sure it will look even more spectacular on a larger stage.

The Nutcracker

Friday 20 January 2012 - In contrast to Moscow City Ballet’s production of ‘Swan Lake’. ‘The Nutcracker’ could not have provided more of a contrast. The style of dance was more free and personalised whilst the visual effects of costume, props and scenery was a feast for the eyes. I must particularly mention the beautiful backdrop of Act Two that consisted of intricate appliqué fairies in pastel hues.

As with ‘Swan Lake’ the ensemble did their best on the small stage of Richmond Theatre and I am sure some parts had to be adapted to accommodate this, and again the ensemble provided good support for the principals. The range of characters also required the dancers to act, which was executed with a good understanding of each individual. I felt the children were particularly entertaining and the rats were characterised with rodent scratches and swinging of their tails.

Our prima ballerina for the evening, Alevtina Lapshina, danced the role of Clara with a child-like innocent quality that the character needs, whilst demonstrating excellent technique and grace. The whole performance was strong and even when she was being lifted and thrown about by her partner Talgat Kozhabaev (The Nutcracker Prince).

The well-known numbers from the score including the Spanish, Arab, Chinese and Russian dances gave a few more members of the cast to shine, each executing their given style with effort and demonstrating their skills.

A loved story, a smashing Tchaicovsky score and stimulating visuals all supported by talented dancers (and actors in this case)…what more does a trip to the ballet need?

Moscow City Ballet are currently touring the UK until the end of March 2012.
Tour dates and more info on their website

Reviews by Philippa Bellis