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Watch: Members of The Royal Ballet on Swan Lake

Rehearsal footage and exclusive interviews from the cast and creative team of The Royal Ballet's Swan Lake.

By Lottie Butler (Former Assistant Content Producer (News and Social Media))

17 March 2015 at 10.20pm | 4 Comments

The Principals and corps de ballet on Swan Lake

Swan Lake is perhaps most iconic of all ballets. A romantic fairytale set to Tchaikovsky’s masterful score, it features some of ballet’s most famous set pieces, and is demanding for the corps de ballet and Principal dancers alike: ‘In Swan Lake the corps de ballet are so essential’, says Royal Ballet Director Kevin O'Hare. ‘If they’re not living and breathing with the music as the Principals are, it just doesn’t work.’

Anthony Dowell and Darcey Bussell discuss Swan Lake

Anthony Dowell’s production of Swan Lake had its world premiere in 1987, one year into his fifteen-year tenure as Director of the Royal Ballet. 28 years later, the production is a much-loved Royal Ballet classic. Returning this year to oversee the production's return, Dowell remains a perfectionist: ‘As a dancer, you're in control if things go wrong; as a producer, you can’t stop things. It’s live theatre, and that’s what’s exciting!’

Presenter Darcey Bussell, who danced as a Principal with The Royal Ballet for nearly 20 years, first danced Swan Lake in 1990. The lead role of Odette/Odile, which was initially created on two ballerinas, demands first-class technique as well as dramatic interpretation: ‘It was my first three-act classic as a Principal, and I had two days coached by Margot Fonteyn’, she says. ‘I thought she was going to drill me on technique, but she emphasised that every step is telling the story: “Don’t try and be the Swan, you are always the woman first”.’

Coaching the dancers of The Royal Ballet

A huge amount of preparation goes into performing a work like Swan Lake, and The Royal Ballet has an extensive team of répétiteurs, coaches, ballet masters and mistresses and notators that work with the dancers and make sure no detail is overlooked. ‘With Christopher Carr, you will never go on stage not knowing what you are doing’, says First Artist Gemma Pitchley-Gale. ‘He drills the dance so that you know it and feel really confident, allowing you to excel as a dancer without having any panics.’

Matthew Golding rehearsed the role of Prince Siegfried with former Royal Ballet Principal Jonathan Cope. ‘Having the chance to work with Jonathan Cope in the studio is really special’, he says. ‘When I was studying at the Royal Ballet School I was a page boy on stage watching him performing! Now we’re in the studio, what he focuses on is connecting with my character and trying to tell a story.’

To see more films like these, subscribe to the Royal Opera House YouTube channel:

Anthony Dowell's Royal Ballet production of Swan Lake, starring Natalia Osipova and Matthew Golding, was screened live in cinemas across the world on 17 March 2015.


This article has 4 comments

  1. Caryn Conran responded on 18 March 2015 at 11:26am Reply

    Wonderful.I saw the live feed from Covent Garden to chichester cinema last night and it was amazing.lovely to go over some of it again via article

  2. Lucia responded on 18 March 2015 at 5:12pm Reply

    Swan lake was so amazing!!! I have seen it in the cinema and i loved it. It was the best performance that i have ever seen of swan lake!!!! Are you going to produce a dvd of the performance last night of swan lake with Natalia Osipova and Matthew Golding? That would be so great!!!!

  3. Peter Vintner responded on 18 March 2015 at 9:24pm Reply

    I can't think of any superlatives that would do justice to Natalia Osipova's performance last night. In fact all the cast were just outstanding.

    A couple of enduring highlights for me were the the absolutely joyous Neaplolitan dance by Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera (even though they must have danced it together countless times), and the flawless brilliance of the entire corps de ballet (they are as good as, if not better than, any Corps de ballet in the world right now).

    May I just echo Lucia's request, above, about the possibility of a DVD of last night's performance? I've seen a few different performances of Swan Lake over the years, including most recently Marianela Núñez in the Anthony Dowell production and Ulliana in the Mariinsky version at the RoH last summer. But last night Osipova and Golding, and every last member of the cast, were in a league of their own. Thank you so much to all of them and to everyone who made it possible.
    A DVD of that performance would be something to treasure.

  4. Went yesterday in Hobart Tasmania - loved many versions through the years -and the Kiev Ballet Swan Lake live in Queensland was superlative a few years ago -but this was exquisite beyond belief -loved it totally -and Darcy's exquisite grave in hosting and sharing her love of her craft in interviews - Jonathon too -the whole package for theatre -wonderful -and Natalia and Matthew -up there wiih Fonteyn and Nuryvev for me. Thankyou all for the gift of this production. Simply Beautiful and the power of dynamic ease of the principals -breathtaking!

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