Saturday, March 19, 2011

Swan Lake at Dublin's Grand Canal Theatre

When the Russian State Ballet danced Swan Lake at Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre on St. Patrick’s evening this year its members provided a truly wonderful experience for about 2000 people. This marked the first anniversary of the opening of the new theatre.

Everything about this production was superlative. There are not words good enough to express the brilliance of the performance. Of course one has to, firstly, acknowledge the genius of Tchaikovsky for creating such a masterpiece, but the perfection and excellence of the performers on this occasion is also something that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

In the aftermath of the live performance we’re now coming to terms, thanks to, with the individual sections of this great work. To see the swan dancers advancing in perfect harmony with short steps and arms half raised to invoke the familiar wing pose of these majestic birds, which I’m told is known as busking, to Tchaikovsky’s swelling score, provided on this occasion by the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, is wonderful. There are many memorable pas de deux, pas de trios and then the delightful, fantastic pas de quatre from the four small swans, an exercise in synchronisation that has to be seen to be believed and, of course, the extraordinary fouetté turns of Odile in act two (not the Black Swan, Odette, as the dancer was represented to be in the movie of the same name and which was apparently a piece of artistic licence on the part of the filmmakers). The jester stood out, both as a dancer and as an all-round link man between the various movements in the plot.

The Grand Canal Theatre is also impressive. I’m told it has capacity for around 2000 people, and there was a full house on St. Patrick’s night. It’s bright and airy and there are bars on each floor, although €8.30(!) for a vodka and tonic means that the promoters are certainly determined to keep out the riff-raff. Indeed between the seat cost, €10.00 to park the car and the cost of refreshments as noted, we’re definitely not looking at culture-for-the-masses here.

The seating layout is such that each row is curved, with the stage roughly providing a centre for the circle segment so described. This has the beneficial side effect that the individual seats are offset slightly so that any given member of the audience is looking over the shoulders of the people in front, but not perfectly in the case of the Grand Canal Theatre, as the offset does not place the rear seats exactly in the middle of the two seats in front. In a number of theatres in European cities that we’ve been in each seat is placed precisely at the join of the two seats in front. This is important when a short person finds him or herself seated behind one or more tall individuals.

You are now looking at a ballet buff in the person of yours truly.

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