While true blue balletomanes were flocking to London to see the English National Ballet in a highly praised new production of Swan Lake, down here in the land of Celts and bards we were seeing a far higher risk version of the same much-loved tale played out at dazzling speed on a block of ice a mere 16m by 16m.
This was Tchaikovsy according to the Imperial Ice Stars, a predominantly Russian troupe crammed to the brim with professional skaters who have been carving up the ice since early childhood. It is a spell-binding show from go to whoa with all the dancing wizardy one expects from a “normal” ballet group plus the thrills and danger of lifts, spins, twirls and aerial passages being done at breakneck speed on razor-sharp blades.
The Ice Stars also inject some nicely-judged touches of humour and audience communication that break down the barriers between the stage and the stalls. Prince Seigfried (Andrei Penkin) and his sidekick Benno (Ruslan Novoseltsev) in particular are a class act that mixes cutting edge skating with some delightful humourous moments. World-class skaters of this ilk normally perform on a stage three times this size so the danger level is raised to a nail-biting level.
And to all this athleticism and daring is added the sheer beauty of this timeless ballet, richly costumed and seamlessly danced.
Pity about the over-loud music with Tchaikosky’s memorable score sounding like a home-made recording of a Vietnamese schoolband bought from a Saigon market stall. Thankfully the sound engineers toned it down and achieved a better balance in the second half.
Interestingly, one of the four co-producers is Australian legend David Atkins and the clever set was designed and built in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Catch it if they come your way on their regular worldwide tour itinerary. It’s an exhilarating night not to be missed.