Swan Lake/ Birmingham Royal Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome
Swan Lake is the most famous ballet in the classical repertoire. With good reason – it’s one of the best.
The Tchaikovsky score is his most memorable, every tune is timeless and spine tingling.
The story is also more involving than some other ballets, which are often just a skimpy excuse for some fantastic foot flexing.
So it comes as no surprise to find Swan Lake being performed in this bumper ballet year, with BRB celebrating its 20th anniversary of being based in the Hippodrome.
It doesn’t disappoint.
The plot involves Prince Siegfried, who is soon to be crowned king. (And married, too, if his mother has anything to do with it.)
Siegfried prefers the life of a singleton, though this changes when he meets the Princess Odette.
Unfortunately an evil magician has cast a spell over the Princess and her companions, meaning they have been transformed into swans, only returning to human form during the hours round midnight.
It all ends in tears and tragedy.
But before that, there is some tantalising dance, especially from Nao Sakuma, who performs as both the Princess Odette, and her devious doppelganger, Odile.
Sakuma doesn’t just have impeccable technique, she inhabits her performance with every fibre of her being.
Noble, haunted, mysterious – she is all of these things.
Sakuma is usually partnered with Chi Cao, who never fails to match her in intensity.
On this occasion her partner is Iain Mackay, as Prince Siegfried, who, though excellent, seems a tad gauche in his lead role.
I also missed Cao’s spring-heeled sharpness. (There are times when I’ve watched him leap and spin so high, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him hover in mid air for half an hour, while taking time out to read the paper and enjoy a nice cuppa.)
Minor quibbles apart, this is a spellbindingly romantic show, especially the heart-stopping moment when the swans rise majestically from the mist.
So yet another feather in BRB’s cap – and a swan’s feather at that.
*Swan Lake is at the Hippodrome until Saturday