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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 18:26 GMT
Swan Lake with a splash
Georgy Smilevski and Tatiana Tchernobrovkina in the lead roles
By BBC News Online's Patrick Jackson

Moscow's Stanislavsky Ballet rounds off its first season in London with its take on a dance world standard.

Swan Lake for some is what ballet is all about - ballerinas in feathery white tutus joining hands for the "dance of the little swans".

The Stanislavsky can again take pride in the skill of its dancers and the beauty of its design, but this is a fun Lake and not just for art-lovers alone.

Vitaly Breusenko as the Jester
The Jester is the life and soul of the party
The fairy-tale plot is simple. And unmarried prince falls for an enchanted maiden and frees her when the wicked magician of the lake gets too sure of himself.

With the Stanislavsky Ballet, it becomes the peg for a celebration of adolescence and young love.

Prince Siegfried is shown here as a petulant teenager, set on moping despite the best efforts of his Jester, who regularly steals the show with spring-heeled antics.

Rothbart, the magician of the lake, is wicked in every sense, bursting into the ballroom with his minions in Act III to hustle the innocent prince with temptations - something between a showman and a pimp extraordinaire.

Krapivina in the role of Odette
Stanislavsky star Natalia Krapivina is also dancing the role of Odette/Odile in London
Surprising Rothbart

The gilded ballroom glows infernally like a red light district, with the Spanish dance a revelation in its erotic intensity.

This Rothbart may surprise some but he is counterpointed by the perfection of the seemingly weightless soloist, Tchernobrovkina, in the twin role of Odette/Odile and the corps de ballet - not a trembling leg among them.

The choice of colour in the intricate costumes is the stuff of dreams and Vladimir Arefyev's sets illustrate the story perfectly.

They switch from the rich warmth of the palace to the cold, pale world of the wizard's lake.

Iron curtains

Tchaikovsky's music, melody over driving melody, is a sea of household tunes used and abused by advertisers for years.

Cast on first night
Odette/Odile: Tatiana Tchernobrovkina
Prince Siegfried: Georgy Smilevski
Rothbart: Vladimir Kirillov
Jester: Vitaly Breusenko
But here you hear the music as it was intended, young again in the arms of conductors like Georgy Zhemchuzhin on the first night.

Mr Zhemchuzhin actually saved the ballet at one point when a curtain bunched up centre-stage.

He subtly slowed the tempo to allow the dancers to keep face as a stagehand walked the curtain into the wing in a moment of pure Monty Python.

Swan Lake continues at the Royal Festival Hall, London, until 12 January.

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