Swan Lake

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

four stars

When Scottish Ballet premiered David Dawson’s radically re-imagined Swan Lake in 2016, there were talking points aplenty. He’d stripped out classically familiar tropes - no tutus, no Rothbart casting spells, no Royal panoply. Instead, the central encounter between a misfit Siegfried and an other-worldly Odette gained nuanced intensity, with Dawson’s physically, riskily, fierce duets bringing them together in touching distance of possible happiness. That it ends with Odette betrayed and Siegfried bereft, touches us to the core: 19th century myth acquired everyday humanity.

Since then, new faces have come into the company - for them reviving Dawson’s Swan Lake is an exacting challenge, his choreography and starkly minimal designs leaving dancers nowhere to hide. They respond with elan.

Opening night found Bruno Micchiardi continuing to impress - he brings thoughtful intelligence to accomplished movement, catching the ‘outsider’ edge in a Siegfried who feels isolated despite the supportive camaraderie of best mate Benno (a delightfully ebullient Thomas Edwards).

Joy of joys, however, was the return of Sophie Martin (as Guest Principal) in the Odette/Odile role she created in 2016. Her Odette is wonderfully elemental, her tiny pliant frame in its brief, skin-tight body, channelling an unjaded purity that says ‘soulmate’ to Siegfried. The alchemy between them is immediate: each hold, each lift - like the talismanic heart she gives him - a token of trust.


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All that shatters, of course, when Siegfried succumbs to the glamorous artifice of Odile - Martin again, but now a knowingly foxy vamp with breathtaking technique.

You long to shout ‘no!’ to naive Siegfried but he’s blind-sided by desire. He ends a loser, and a loner again. We wonder is he wiser?

The duets are the riveting highpoint in a ballet where it sometimes feels as if the need to match Tchaikovsky’s score sees lots of busy dance but no real narrative. Even so, that music is played live with real finesse, the dancers bring colour and energy to the starkly monochromatic staging - a bold addition to Scottish Ballet’s future-forward repertoire.