12 November 2016
Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
My only previous experience of a ballet is at my 5 year old daughters dance shows, whilst the friend who accompanied me had even less knowledge that myself. I have to say that this was an amazing introduction to ballet, however I am glad that I read a synopsis of the story prior to the performance as we may have otherwise struggled to appreciate the full extent of the emotion and tragedy.
The Victoria Theatre is situated in the centre of Halifax, with plenty of roadside parking and a couple of open air carparks within walking distance. It is a relatively small traditional theatre, with a bar and refreshment stand. Our seats were in the balcony, yet we still had an amazing view of the stage. I would say that they do need to expand the toilet facilities as we did queue for most of the interval, but otherwise a lovely theatre.
Swan Lake opens with the birthday celebrations of Prince Siegfield, where the Queen tells him that he must choose a bride. He is un-enchanted by the many suitable ladies presented to him, but as he looks out onto the lake he sees the Swan Queen, Odette. He learns that she is the victim of a spell cast by Von Rothbart, and that Swan lake is created by her tears and those of all the maidens captured and transformed into swans. The Prince feels a desire to protect her.
However Von Rotherbart is also in love with the Swan Queen, and disguises his daughter Odile (The Black Swan) to look like Odette. Prince Siegfield is fooled by Von Rothbart, and declares his love for Odile whilst Odette looks on. His love will forgive him, but he can no longer save her and the tale ends in tragedy for the lovers in a dramatic closing scene.
The live orchestra opened the performance, and for several minutes built the tension until the curtain went up. I found it easy to relax into the show as the music set the tone and mood of the dance perfectly, so that even if you did not understand the full details of the story prior to watching, you could appreciate the main themes. Music was used to depict the characters, mood and tension, whilst the backdrop was simply yet effective.
The use of dance, expression, mime and subtle movements helped to convey the love of the couple and the struggles of the Prince. A truly beautiful performance by the leading cast members.
For me, the second half far surpassed the first. The iconic Dance of the Four Cygnets was fault-less and simply stunning, whilst the performances by the company of Swans were in total unison and a pleasure to watch, they simply took my breath away. The White Swan Pas de Deux was beautiful, in fact there were too many hi-lights to mention. This is one of the shows you have to experience at least once in your lifetime.
The only minor critique would be in the first half, the entire company dances were not always in total synchronisation. This was counter-balanced by the beautiful solo and leading cast dances, so it certainly did not distract from the quality of the show. The dancer who portrayed Prince Siegfield was simply stunning with every single step, and the subtle gentle way that he held and positioned Odette during their dances together was enchanting.
I would give this show 4 and a half out of 5, a highly recommended introduction to Ballet, from my point of view.
For other shows at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax visit www.calderdale.gov.uk/victoria.
Victoria Theatre, Fountain Street, Halifax HX1 1BP | 01422 351158