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Review: Swan Lake Reloaded

It's Swan Lake... but not as you know it!


As far as ballets go, Swan Lake might just be the most famous. With Tchaikovsky’s music, the instantly recognisable costumes and recently brought back into the public consciousness with the film Black Swan, Swan Lake is known as the ballet of ballets. However, I don’t think there has ever been an interpretation quite like Frederik Rydman’s Swan Lake Reloaded, currently residing at the Coliseum theatre in London.

Gone are the ballet and the tutus. The classic tale is reimagined with slick, contemporary and urban choreography that lacks the poise of ballet but none of the absolute precision and talent, against a potent soundtrack that impressively remixes Tchaikovsky’s classical music with heady, filthy beats. But it’s not all perfectly executed pop-and-locks; the choreography is influenced by Hollywood musicals, Bollywood, jazz, street and break dance to name a few. This is combined with a dynamic set inspired by Amsterdam’s Red Light District and underground club scene. As well as dark and unsettling, the production is, at times, ridiculously camp and utterly fabulous.

The performance has a pretty impressive opening. The evil sorcerer Rothbart, danced by Daniel Koivunen, appears in a spotlight before launching into a beat-perfect dance behind a screen of light effects that puts Beyonce’s 2011 Billboard Awards performance to shame. Rothbart is portrayed as a pimp drug lord, with his captive swans as addicted prostitutes (who perform a rather unusual dance with a fish…), costumed in knee high boots and feather coats. The story stays pretty close to the traditional tale, with Siegfried, danced by Robert Malmborg, falling for the cursed Odette, danced by Maria Andersson, and their ill-fated love torn apart by Rothbart’s trickster swan. There is a visually stunning climax in white feathers and bright lights that called for a standing ovation from members of the audience.

The production successfully acknowledges some of the traditional pieces, such as the dance of the four young swans, which is done by the four prostitutes lying on the floor, while the black swan’s solo 32 fouette pirouettes is performed instead by a break dancing jester spinning on his head. But unlike the classic Swan Lake, Reloaded alleviates the audience’s heartache with well-timed comedy stunts, such as a dick in a box, a phallic banana and sassy dance moves. It is a production that is able to laugh at itself, and even falls into the realm of pantomime when Siegfried’s mother harasses an unsuspecting audience member into sexual depravity. The production is upsetting when it is meant to be upsetting, and it is also funny when it is meant to be funny.

A delightful and impressive reimagining of Swan Lake for a modern audience. It’s a bit like Step Up meets Pretty Woman meets Black Swan, but in a very good way. Rydman’s Swan Lake: Reloaded will have you leaving the theatre with a smile on your face as you breakdance all the way home…

GT gives this a: 4/5

Swan Lake: Reloaded is at London’s Coliseum theatre from until 10 August. To book tickets click here.

Words: Glyn Darcy Rive


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