Bolshoi Ballet in cinema: Swan Lake

February 23, 2020

Charlotte Kasner

This season’s run of Bolshoi Ballet cinema screenings continued with a love transmission of Yuri Grigorovich’s production of Swan Lake. It’s a ballet with a chequered past, problems in Soviet times with the 1969 production meaning that his original ideas were not fully fledged, as it were, until 2001. It is this version, with the ‘happy’ ending finally expunged that we now see.

Earlier casts placed the focus very much on Siegfried; a brooding Hamlet-like adolescent, with Odette almost as a distraction. Given that some of the best productions don’t even have any swans, there was nothing wrong with this, but the current cast give it a much more traditional flavour, with Odette/Odile very much at the centre.

Italian import to the Bolshoi, the pencil-thin Jacopo Tissi is a dreamy innocent, politely going through the motions with the princesses at the ball and an easy target for his nemesis the Evil Genius. There is little emphasis on his parents insisting on his marriage and his lack of interest in the processes is more about his woodland fantasies than the potential collapse of a dynasty. He exhibits a fluid mastery of technique though, with precise landings, plenty of ballon and twinkling batterie.

Olga Smirnova (here with Artemy Belyakov) in Swan LakePhoto Natalia Voronova
Olga Smirnova (here with Artemy Belyakov) in Swan Lake
Photo Natalia Voronova

He is well-matched by Olga Smirnova, who in turn gives a pliant rather than timid Odette and a razor-sharp Odile. Partnering is seamless and Smirnova makes us believe that she could stay en pointe on her supporting leg all day while she does as she wills with the working leg.

The two main innovations that Grigorovich introduced was transforming Rotbart into Siegfried’s alter ego, here danced ably by the commanding presence of Egor Garashchenko, and putting the princesses en pointe for the national dances. Dressed as brides with appropriate regional variations, this makes perfect sense and means that the princesses no longer look like peasants dancing regional measures. It also provides Angelina Vlashinets (Hungarian), Anastasia Denisova (Russian), Eleonora Sevenard (Spanish), Xenia Zhiganshina (Neopolitan) and Olga Marchenkova (Polish) with some challenging choreography to get their teeth into.

Ekaterina Klyavlina, Elizaveta Kokoreva, Maria Mishina and Stanislava Postnova were charmingly polite cygnets, although I long for a brave designer to put them in cygnet-grey tutus decked out in a ton of fluffy marabou!

All in all, a very pleasant experience, not least because the marvellous Bolshoi Orchestra were at their finest under the baton of maestro Pavel Sorokin.

The Bolshoi Ballet cinema season continues with a recording of Romeo and Juliet on March 29, 2020; followed by Balanchine’s Jewels, live on April 19. Visit for venues and more details.

Bolshoi Ballet, Romeo poster