The great thing about Derek Deane’s Swan Lake in-the-round is that although the sheer scale of it is impressive, the story of Odette and Siegfried remains the heart upon which it relies.
Alina Cojocaru began and finished the night as she invariably does; composed, assured and never less than devastatingly accurate in the precision and timing of her steps. But what makes her so compelling as a dancer is not just her extraordinary technique but the artistry she layers above it – she doesn’t so much stand on pointe as float on it and her delicate portrayal of Odette followed suit. Although her Black Swan went strangely awry (it looked like she picked up a painful injury to her foot in the middle of it) she was back in command for the tear-laden finale.
Life is a funny thing sometimes. Cojocaru’s struggles in the 3rd act propelled her Siegfried, Osiel Gouneo, to a different planet. In the earlier acts he’d already proven himself an insanely strong partner with an enormous jump but when he realised her discomfort in the Black Swan pas de deux it was as though he decided to seize the moment for the both of them.
Suddenly (and somehow) he was that bit bit quicker, that much higher, that much more extravagant. He was landing jumps with six ‘o’ clock legs, starting new leaps before you realised he’d finished the first and slowing his spins down to a pinpoint halt.
In short, he was sensational – the Royal Albert Hall is a big old place but he filled it with love.
His performance was the icing on the cake of an excellent show. The English National Ballet Philharmonic gave the dancers the best support possible, James Streeter’s Rothbart was genuinely ominous and the much vaunted 60 swans were magnificent; straight, clean lines and remarkably in-tune arms. On coming out at the end, it really felt like we’d witnessed something remarkable.
English National Ballet’s Swan Lake continues at the Royal Albert Hall until 12 June 2016. Tickets, casting and loads of info can be found on the ENB website.