REVIEW: St Petersburg Ballet’s Swan Lake – “Irina Kolesnikova is a magnificent Swan Queen”

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake - Dmitri Akulinin and Irina Kolesnikova. Photo by Vladimir Zenzinov

With 5 minutes to curtain call, there was still a huge queue down St Martin’s Lane with ballet fans vying to see the famous ballet stars perform Swan Lake at London Coliseum, and the acclaimed Irina Kolesnikova and Denis Rodkin (Bolshoi Ballet) did not disappoint.

St Petersburg Ballet’s performance of the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov’s Swan Lake, begins to shine when we arrive at the dark mist-filled lake forest, where Prince Siegfried (Denis Rodkin) meets the Swan Queen (Irina Kolesnikova).

Irina and Denis have performed Swan Lake together many times and it’s their connection and incredible performances, that finally begins to draw us in to the dreamy love story.

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake - Irina Kolesnikova. Photo by Vladimir Zenzinov
St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake – Irina Kolesnikova. Photo by Vladimir Zenzinov

As the Swan Queen, Irina is a woman cursed and without hope. Her presence on stage is captivating and her portrayal of Odette is dramatic and emotionally expressive. She pours so much feeling into each look, each hand movement and flutter of her long swan arms.

Upon meeting her prince, she falls in love one perfect step at a time. I love the moments when Irina ruffles her feathered head into her prince’s neck, as their eyes lock. It’s these small swan movements, together with her endless elegant arms, her deep back bends and beautiful lines that makes this coveted role truly her own.

Irina is perfectly matched by Denis Rodkin’s natural softness and beautiful technique. As Siegfried he’s reserved in his nobility, which shines in his perfectly horizontal grand jetes that seem to hang in the air and gracefully high extensions and arabesques.

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake – Dmitri Akulinin and Irina Kolesnikova. Photo by Vladimir Zenzinov

As Odette and Prince Siegfried fall in love, white swans fill the stage with arms fluttering in perfection unison, which sees to corps de ballet lift their performance. Against the dark forest set the swans dazzle, while Irina and Denis are mesmerising.

Act III sees the stage turn gold, filled with high arches and sparkling chandeliers.  The ballroom scene is lavish, with traditional Russian inspired costumes full of colour. But the dances only pass the time until Irina as Odile, steps onto the stage in her striking black tutu embellished with black and red stones and adorned with a black and red crown.

Irina’s portrayal of the innocent white swan Odette and black swan Odile is so distinctly different. As Odile she transforms completely. Her movements sharper, her eyes wider, her face taught, her lips are parted as she smiles to enthral and beguile her prince.

Irina’s Odile is pure, seductive evil. Odile takes pleasure in her betrayal, she steals glances at Prince Siegfried measuring her allure, calculating how far she needs to go to steal his heart.

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. Photo by KT
St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. Photo by KT

The pas de deux with Odile’s famous fouetté is a true highlight of the night, as she flicked to the rapid pace of an energetic score. Irina and Denis’ performance was exceptional and they were rewarded with a rapturous applause.

Awed by Odile, the Prince’s heart is captured. I especially love the moment when Prince Siegfried realises he’s been tricked and Odile indulges in her deception and gives an evil laugh, before fleeing the stage as the curtain comes down. It’s these wonderful details in Irina’s character portrayal that truly makes her a magnificent Swan Queen.

The final Act III takes us back to the forest lake, all misty with blue hues, as white and black swans gather around to protect and comfort the distraught and betrayed Odette, who’s forever condemned to be a swan.

The final scene delights with Irina and Denis’ pas de deux that’s full of emotion and exquisite partnering, as they break the spell and the Swan Queen becomes a woman, in love saved by her Prince. And although some may prefer the death of the Swan Queen, their triumph of love over evil is divinely satisfying.

Other stand out performances were from Sergei Fedorkov as the jubilant and cheeky jester that wowed with his complex leaps and turns. Dmitriy Akulinin gave a good performance as the odious Rothbart.

Irina and Denis’ performance received a well deserved standing ovation and no doubt there will be more queues waiting to catch a glimpse of these ballet stars together on stage.

St Petersburg Ballet’s Swan Lake at London Coliseum until 2 September.

Read our interview with Prima Ballerina Irina Kolesnikova about preparing for the role of Swan Queen and returning to ballet after giving birth to her daughter. Tap here.