Playful and haunting Swan Lake

Javier Torres ad Anthony and Ayami Miyata as Odette
Javier Torres ad Anthony and Ayami Miyata as Odette

Review by Hannah Richardson

If you didn’t know that Northern Ballet likes to put a new spin on classic favourites, you might be somewhat alarmed by their production of Swan Lake, which adds a gay twist to the story

Matthew Koon and Kevin Poeung in Swan Lake

Matthew Koon and Kevin Poeung in Swan Lake

Northern Ballet’s version of th plot may be unexpected, but what you won’t be disappointed by is the quality of the dancing, which was superb throughout on Tuesday’s opening night.

Set in New England at the start of the 20th century, a time of long lazy summers and old world grace, this production, which was first performed in 2004, features costumes capturing the luxury and refined affluence of the era.

Choreographer David Nixon has invented a back story to explain the hero, Anthony’s strange fascination with the lake.

Haunted by a childhood tragedy resulting in the death of his beloved brother, Anthony looks to the water for answers.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

An ethereal swan-ike creature emerges and Anthony finds an unknown joy and freedom he has not felt since he was a boy.

But on returning home, he finds himself conflicted.

Torn between his wife and his best friend, the mystical swan beckons.

Set designs by Dave Gillan, lighting by Peter Mumford and Tchaikovsky’s score played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia complete the retelling.

Ayami Miyata was a beautiful Odette, and the most touchingly birdlike swan I have ever seen. And the partnership between her and Javier Torres as Anthony was superb.

So too was Torres’ partnership with Giuliano Contadini, as his friend, Simon, with the tension between physical play and more meaningful physical contact always present in their beautifully executed tumbles and lifts.

The male Friends of Anthony were superbly physical and playful in their dancing.

Particularly captivating was an energetic pairing of Kevin Poeung and Matthew Koon.

There is no Black Swan in this Swan Lake. The character of Odilia is Anthony’s close friend and later his wife, competing with Simon for Anthony’s affections.

Anthony is torn not between good and evil but between his two closest friends.

Swan Lake is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday night.

Northern Ballet also performs its new children’s ballet, Tortoise & the Hare, at Milton Keynes Theatre tomorrow, Friday.

For tickets, call the box office on 0844 871 7652 or see www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes