The weekly streams from the National Theatre and Royal Opera House have created a lockdown paradox. We rarely leave the house, but we’re accessing more London culture than ever before. A weekly trip to the actual, in real life ballet would not have been possible, but now we can watch the principal ballerinas do their thing every Wednesday at English National Ballet’s watch parties.
This week’s performance is the ultimate ballet crowdpleaser (as in, the one we’ve all heard of): ‘Swan Lake’. The three-hour production was originally choreographed by British dancer Derek Deane more than 20 years ago – it was first performed by ENB in 1997, in the round at the Royal Albert Hall.
The Wednesday Watch Party kicks off at 7pm tonight, and from then you’ll have 48 hours to see the ‘Swan Lake’ performance, which was recorded at the Liverpool Empire in 2018. It’s an enchanting sea of white tutus and feathery trousers moving in unison to Tchaikovsky’s dramatic score.
Story-wise, it’s a mix of Russian and German folklore that you’ve likely heard many times before: a princess (Princess Odette, played here by Jurgita Dronina) is kidnapped by a sorcerer and placed under a spell that turns her into a swan by day. A happy ending if you’re the ugly duckling, a real bummer if you’re human royalty. Odette keeps her human form by night, and falls in love with Prince Siegfried (Isaac Hernández). But the sorcerer, not content with turning her into part-time poultry, casts a spell over his own daughter, Odile (also played by Dronina) so she can swoop in and steal a proposal from Prince Siegfried.
The dual role of Odette/Odile is a big deal in the world of ballet, dancers work for their entire careers hoping to secure it, a desire that was fictionalised and pushed into the realm of horror for Natalie Portman’s character Nina in ‘Black Swan’. But all was well in the ENB dressing rooms. No swans were harmed in the making of this production.
Stream ‘Swan Lake’ on ENB’s Facebook or YouTube from Wed May 27-Fri May 29.
You have until tomorrow to catch Gillian Anderson in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ for free.
Still not cultured out? Try the Royal Opera House’s performance of ‘Cendrillon’.