Ballet West’s Swan Lake
The Empire Theatre
AS a busy theatre showed, there certainly seems to be an appetite in the Highlands for classical ballet that is not satisfied by the regular visits of Scottish Ballet’s lavish productions.
So thanks to Argyll-based Ballet West who, with their lower overheads, also make ballet more access to dance fans — especially younger dance fans — who might baulk at the asking price for a full show from the professional company down the road in Glasgow.
They also bring ballet to places by-passed by bigger companies, with this tour taking them from Oban to Banchory, along with the valuable opportunity for Ballet West’s student dancers to get experience of dancing for a live audience in a proper theatre.
This may be ballet on a budget, but the dancers combine enthusiasm with professionalism and if the production lacks the lavish sets Scottish Ballet spoils us with, that just means the focus is all the more on the performers rather than their surroundings.
Not that this production of the ever popular Swan Lake was entirely short of spectacle.
With up to 25 dancers on stage at the same time, Ballet West can do visually impressive, especially with the girls swirling round in their different coloured dresses or a flock of swans spiralling around the Prince before making their way off stage.
The lack of a live orchestra is a miss, though. Without live musicians present, even Tchaikovsky’s weighty score could not drown out the slap of point shoes hitting the stage, while between the scenes the recorded music could not prevent the audience from starting to become restless.
These are quibbles, though.
With ballet, what matters is the dancing, and if some of the moves were not quite as ambitious as might be expected from a professional cast, they could still impress, with guest choreographer Daniel Job challenging them to do their best.
Principal dancers Jonathan Barton — playing Prince Siegfried with the look and easy arrogance of a Brit-Pop rockstar — and Sara-Maria Smith deserved their leading roles.
Smith especially stuck in the memory, whether spinning round and round long enough to make the audience feel dizzy, let alone herself, or lifting her legs to unlikely angles, even while hopping backwards on one foot.
Shame though that not all the cast joined them on stage for a final curtain call in front of an appreciative Inverness crowd.