Review – Swan Lake: A traditional enchantment

Ekaterina Bortyakova shines in this production of perhaps the most famous classical ballet in the world


The dual role of Odette-Odile is danced by Ekaterina Bortyakova in this production of perhaps the most famous classical ballet in the world; she meets the challenge with consummate grace.

In a production dedicated to director Alan Foley's late colleague Donna Daly Blythe, the text, or scenario, of the ballet has been contracted into two neat acts. A little too neat, perhaps, yet Foley's innovations scale all the high points of the traditional presentation, and the choreography adapted by Yuri Demakov retains the fluidity and the lyrical airiness demanded in response to Tchaikovsky's bewitching score, here recorded by the Russian State Orchestra.

Essentially simple, the plot involves the devotion of Prince Siegfried for the swan queen Odette who is in thrall to an evil magician and is protected, somewhat perilously, by her flock of lakeside swans. For his own reasons the sorcerer produces a black swan, Odile, who attempts to lure the prince into a fatal attraction, but in doing so also provides one of ballet’s show-stoppers, the glittering sequence of fouettes that now and always stops the show.


The Spanish divertissement is among other highlights, while apart from Siegfried the most remarkable male dancer is Robert Thomson as the court jester, with leaps and turns of exciting accuracy providing an important contrast to the pallid scenery of the first act. Indeed, even in the scenes of the forested shoreline, the dominant full moon is anything but radiant although the Russian costumes sparkle in their feathery abundance.

As a story, Swan Lake remains enchanting, its combination of pathos and ebullience still the headline for classical technique, requiring brilliance in physical performance as well as strong definition in characterisation. In both Bortyakova and her prince Akzhol Mussakhanov Cork City Ballet rejoices in dancers of presence as well as tender precision.

Ends Saturday

Mary Leland

Mary Leland is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture