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Swan Lake at Cork Opera House: Flawless in dance and dedication to vivid artistry

Marking the 30th anniversary of Cork City Ballet Company, this is a work of extravagant display

Swan Lake

Cork Opera House

Nothing is easy in classical ballet, and in Swan Lake the greatest challenge is to match performance to expectation. Marking the 30th anniversary of Cork City Ballet Company, this presentation directed by Alan Foley is flawless in dance and in its dedication to those imperious demands of characterisation, technique and vivid artistry.

In work in which every movement has to appear effortless as well as graceful, unison itself becomes art as the corps de ballet forms and reforms patterns of undulating beauty. For those watching for the first time, this achievement is a revelation, for those who have seen it all before it is a wonder that here, again, that remembered magic can be evoked in a controlled blizzard of feathers.

Within this fantasy of enchanted swans, a young prince falls in love and, being young, mistakes one love for another. Here the music of Tchaikovsky, recorded by the Russian State Orchestra, is personified by the pairing of Katerina Petrova as both Odette and her rival Odile, with Tsetso Ivanov as Prince Siegfried. The sparkling brilliance of their encounters is all the more poignant in their united expressions of desire, yearning and renunciation. Choreography seems too harsh a word for the fluidity of these duets in which proficiency sustains delicacy and tenderness. As always, the French have a word for so much of which is essential in this ballet, the attitudes, the leaps and lifts, the arms and hands in which even thumbs seem articulate.

Essentially romantic, the ballet is not all love, there are laughs (a terrific Jester from Yassaui Mergaliyev) and giddy youthfulness from the cygnets quartet, while the discipline of the tradition allows something outgoing and joyous.


In wrapping the four-act plot (from Petipa and Ivanov) into a two-act production, choreographer Yury Demakov allows for several welcome divertissements. While the costumes are all that could be desired, the prince’s crossbow is a toy and the villain Rothbart is more sprite than demon. In a work of extravagant display these niggles fade in the sense of evanescence as white limbs reach towards a white moon as if they just might reach it.

Cork City Ballet presents Swan Lake at Cork Opera House from Thursday, November 2nd, to Saturday, November 4th

Mary Leland

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