Going to the ballet has been on my to-do list for a very long time. Years even. I love watching anything on stage, I love watching dance and I used to take ballet lessons when I was younger. All in all, I was pretty positive I was going to love it. A couple of weeks ago, it was my birthday and I figured it was something new that I could do to mark the occasion. It turned out that the St. Petersburg Ballet were performing Swan Lake at London’s Coliseum theatre, led by Irina Kolesnikova and accompanied by a cast that belonged to various other ballet companies. From what I have heard, Swan Lake is a classic so it seemed like the perfect place to start.
The Flatmate and I met after work, in the Pret near the theatre off Trafalgar Square. I’d already picked up a sandwich at the Pret by my work before I left but I knew there was still a serious chance that my stomach would rumble halfway through the performance so I treated myself to another- after all, it was my birthday.
Since it was a special occasion, we hadn’t gone for the cheapest seats but we couldn’t afford the most expensive so we ended up somewhere in the middle. As I looked around I figured you would probably get a decent view wherever- that was handy to know for next time, as there most certainly be a next time.
The Coliseum was certainly different from the last Colosseum I frequented- it wasn’t as old and far more ornate. It was beautiful really.
The performance itself was made up of four Acts, with a bit of a break between each. That meant that I had a chance to grab an interval ice cream halfway through. I wasn’t particularly hungry but its tradition as far as I’m concerned so I got one, a chocolate one, all the same.
I hadn’t looked up the plot of Swan Lake beforehand as I’d figured I’d seen the Swan Princess film which is based on it so I’d be able to figure out what was going on. I wasn’t an awful theory, I could figure parts of it out, but I still ended up on Wikipedia during the intervals which actually really helped. I could see from the phones around me that I wasn’t the only one to come up with this plan.
The performance itself was wonderful. It seemed to go on for about three hours (with breaks) and even though there are only so many different ballet moves you can do in that amount of time I was still mesmerised. The highlight for me was a dance performed by four of the swan maidens. They moved together across the stage, holding onto each other, in perfect synch. I was pretty darn impressed. Equally great was the guy playing the court jester who looked like he was having an amazing as he spun and leapt around the stage.
The ONLY thing I would say is that the ballerinas did seem to love a good clap. I don’t just mean at the end of each Act, as one would expect, but at the end of every scene or every dance routine. And then at the end of the production there was so much bowing, to the point of being indulgent. I did wonder how long the entire production would have taken if there weren’t so many applause pauses. I’m not saying it wasn’t impressive enough to demand much clapping, it’s just that I’ve never had to clap quite so much at a play for example, plus I just wanted the next routine to start again!
Although the swan maidens were dressed in the tutus one would expect, I had no idea how some of the female dancers could move the way they did in their big dresses. I undoubtedly would have got caught up and fallen straight on my face. The male lead, Denis Rodkin from the Bolshoi ballet, was dressed in the standard/stereotypical very tight ballet tights and, as The Flatmate pointed out, seemed to have more muscles in one part of one thigh than we did in our entire bodies. It didn’t half make me feel unfit. I wish I’d kept up ballet but 5 year old me wasn’t that fussed about fitness or balancing on the tips of her toes. She was more fussed about becoming a mermaid. That’s hindsight for you though – perhaps it isn’t too late for me.