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Askonas Holt, Raymond Gubbay and Sadler’s Wells present

Ballet Nacional de Cuba


 Swan Lake

Photo by Alistair Muir

Direccion general Alicia Alonso


London Coliseum


Mar 30 – Apr 3 2010







A review by James Richards for EXTRA! EXTRA!

The London Coliseum played host to Ballet Nacional de Cuba this week, which kicked off Sadler’s Wells Spring Dance season with panache. Alicia Alonso, general director, choreographer and patron saint of Cuban ballet, has returned to her roots by staging Swan Lake, the first show ever performed by the company, in 1948.

Alonso has opted for three acts and an epilogue, rather than the usual four. The court dance therefore segues almost directly into the confrontation between Prince Siegfried and sorcerer Von Rothbart. Dynamically linking the two final segments seemed to chime with the overall sense of re-invigoration from a fresh, talented company with a wise head on its shoulders.

The solo work was impressive from the beginning – Yonah Acosta showed exceptional vivacity tempered with technical ability as the Jester. His was the star turn in Act 1, providing a focal point in the  folk-influenced peasant scene while Gretel Morejon, Lissi Baez and Alfredo Ibañez formed an inspired Pas de Trios.

Respect for tradition was ever-present, not least in the costumes by Julio Castano and Francis Montesinos. Sumptuous royal gowns drenched the stage with heavy fabrics, at the foot of a towering woodland castle backdrop befitting this ur-fairytale. Ruddy Artiles’ ethereal lighting in greens, purples and soft pink was restrained and atmospheric.

The centrepiece of any Swan Lake must be the waterside action in Act 2. Anette Delgado shone as Odette (and later Odile), the swan princess. Her arm movements felt lyrical and expressive, and her duet with Elier Bourzac as Prince Siegfried was touching as well as technically dazzling. Bourzac was certainly razor sharp, but you felt, out of the two, Bourzac showed us more soul. Delgado’s distinctive style is unique in that it combines rusticity with brio, placing her up among the most watchable soloists on the world stage.

The dance of the four swans, with almost impeccable pointe work, was the highlight of a fairly conservative evocation of the swan dance. The production’s much-vaunted Latin flavour came through most tangibly during the Spanish dance in Act 3. You sensed this is what the crowd had been waiting for and Yanela Piñera and Alejandro Virelles did not disappoint with a bravura pas de deux accompanied with maracas.

Conductor Giovanni Duarte kept a firm grasp on the orchestra, although a little more zip to the tempo wouldn’t have gone amiss – the thrill of the love’s chase deserves a galloping trill. Sometimes, we had at best, a trot.   

By pledging reverence to tradition with one hand while shedding the dead wood with the other, Swan Lake typifies Alonso’s long and influential career. At ninety years old, it would be temping to think she has left little unsaid. However, if the indomitable spirit of this towering figure is anything to go by, this production is unlikely to be her swan song.


Photo by Nancy Reyes


London Coliseum
33 Saint Martin's Court

020 7836 0111

Tickets £15 - £65




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