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Swan Lake: Moscow sets the bar so very high

Swan Lake

Bord Gais Energy Theatre

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Natalia Kleymyon and Mikhailo Tkachuk in Swan Lake

Natalia Kleymyon and Mikhailo Tkachuk in Swan Lake

Natalia Kleymyon and Mikhailo Tkachuk in Swan Lake

A bravura lead is just one highlight of Moscow City Ballet's production.

In Russian terms, Moscow City Ballet is a youthful ensemble in both company and personnel. It dates only from 1988, when it was founded by Bolshoi veteran Victor Smirnov-Golovanov, who choreographed its original productions. Its current artistic director is Ludmila Nerubashenko, and while she has put her own stamp on the company's classical repertoire, she still pays homage to the founder.

The company is soon to visit Ireland, coming to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin to perform Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty.

At Manchester, the company's prima ballerina Lilia Orekhova danced the role of Odette, the bewitched swan princess and her alter ego, the sorcerer's daughter Odile who colludes with her father to destroy Prince Siegfried. It was an extraordinary performance of grace combined with technical brilliance and bravura projection of emotional intensity, and it was not difficult to understand why the ballerina was the favourite of the company's founder.

The company policy is to showcase all of their principal dancers, however - and in Dublin, Odette/Odile will be danced by Rachel Hernon, who is English but has lived in Russia for 15 years, having studied there at the Perm State Ballet school. She has immersed herself in the Russian classical style, and has been a lead dancer with Moscow City Ballet for just over a year. (In Manchester, she danced one of the Cygnets.) If the promise of her impressive CV lives up to expectations, Dublin audiences are not going to be disappointed.

Prince Siegfried was danced by Mikhailo Tkachuk, who is Ukrainian but spent much of his career with the St Petersburg Ballet, and joined Moscow City only last year. Not quite of the dazzling standard of Orekhova, he managed to project Siegfried's arrogance in rejecting the princesses offered to him as bridal choices, but was less impressively compatible with his partner. Indeed, he seemed much more comfortable in his Act Three pas seul. But we are talking about an extraordinarily high bar.

One of the highlights of the production is the ability of Daniil Orlov as the sorcerer Von Rothbart and Sanzhar Omurbaev as the court jester, to ensure their performances are magnificently balletic; frequently spectacularly acrobatic roles can become just that: acrobatic displays that lose the sense of dance. Orlov and Omurbaev avoid the pitfall completely.

And equally impressive in the more sedate role of Benno is Dzmitry Lekovic, who exudes all the boyish energy the role demands.

Nerubashenko's Smirnov- Golovanov-inspired choreography is clearly influenced by the policy of featuring several dancers in each of the main roles in turn, so the piece is quite episodic rather than flowing through each of the four acts. In another production it could be irritating but here it manages rather to allow a kind of breathing space to absorb each sequence and take in its nuances.

This is as tightly disciplined a company as it is artistically impressive, and the featured roles of the potential brides being offered for the Prince's delectation, as well as the solo swans, are impeccably performed with a hugely impressive corps de ballet in support.

The company's own 40-piece orchestra is conducted by Igor Shavruk, who ensures that Tchaikovsky's score is given its full value while never attempting to eclipse what is happening on stage.

There are times when touring ensembles from prestigious companies don't quite live up to what happens on home stages, giving a sense of being Number Two, or even Number Three, but perhaps because of its founding policy of bringing young dancers to the fore, Moscow City Ballet ensures that it's seen to be giving of its best.

Swan Lake is part of Moscow City Ballet's Tchaikovsky Trilogy, alongside The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from February 10 to February 15. bordgaisenergytheatre.ie

Sunday Independent