When the curtain lifts on the setting of the Lakeside in Swan Lake, a thick band of fog lies across the stage. It’s an arresting image – one made even more so in the final act as the Swans, too numerous to count, rise out of the murk. They build an unsettling, yet wondrous, picture, through both their other-worldly movements as well as moments of strict stillness. One of the many breathtaking qualities about The Shanghai Ballet’s production of Swan Lake is how they employ motionlessness as skilfully and compelling as they do motion.
The sets are layered along the top of the space, creating depth from what could so easily be shallow. At the Lakeside, foliage hangs over itself like strata, while later in the Great Hall, immense folds of fabric undulate in the ceiling. It transforms the stage into a diorama, with the heft of a real landscape. A lovely touch in this space is how a gentle spotlight is used throughout the ballet, singling out a dancer, the diffused light just enough to make them glow.
Ako Kondo was exceptional as the White (Odette) and Black (Odile) Swan, as was Wu Husheng as her lover, Siegfried. Nothing was hurried, moments were held without a tremble – watching these muscular performances delivered with such care and emotionality was splendid. It’s a hard thing to be so near-mechanically precise, yet perform so gracefully. Director, Xin Lili, has led her cast to some remarkable character work.
Dowd concludes his review of Arrival by describing the ending as, “…From unease straight to awe.” The ending of Swan Lake strikes an elegiac tone, but not a bleak one. Our final glimpse of Odette and Siegfried is beautiful – of victory, not defeat – and, indeed, we are left in awe.
Regent Theatre, 191 Collins Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 21 April 2017 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 24 April 2017
For more information, visit: www.theatretours.com.au for details.
Image: Shanghai Ballet – Swan Lake (supplied)
Review: David Collins