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Ballet review: Peter Schaufuss Ballet’s Swan Lake at the Coliseum

11:16 02 August 2012

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Bo Kudsk Kristensen

Little to love in Peter Schaufuss’s flawed reinvention of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake

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» Reinventing classic ballet isn’t easy. The majority of your audience, particularly at a venue like the Coliseum, will be disappointed by anything that strays too far from the beaten path.

Unfortunately, there is little to love in Peter Schaufuss’s re-working of Swan Lake, even for the most open-minded ballet fan.

The first thing you notice is the absence of the orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s classic score still sounds good as a recorded track but it provides none of the depth and intensity of a live production.

The lighting also fails to impress. The front of the stage is dark while a rectangle of light in the middle serves to illuminate the dancers. Whenever they stray too far forward, they almost disappear into the darkness.

All of this would matter less if the dancing cut the mustard. Individually, many of the dancers are not short of talent, as was apparent during a number of pleasing solos in the marginally better second act. But all too often, the choreography and execution were weak, and occasionally wince-inducing.

At one point in the second act the black swan appears to simulate oral sex on Siegfried. While this was perhaps a little inappropriate given the audience demographic, the complete lack of sensuality and emotion throughout the performance makes it completely unforgivable. Indeed, this cringe-worthy stunt perfectly underlines just how much of a disconnect lies between the audience and Peter Schaufuss’s ill-judged production.

Based on this performance, Londoner’s should hold out for forthcoming productions by the English National Ballet at the Coliseum in August or the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in October. Those with a taste for an alternative take on Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece should hang on for another revival of Matthew Bourne’s startling production at Sadler’s Wells.

* Peter Schaufuss Ballet: Swan Lake was at the Coliseum, WC2

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