Liam Scarlett on remaking Swan Lake for the Royal Ballet

2018/5/4 14:15:54

The choreographer tells Debra Craine what to expect of the Royal Ballet’s first new take on the classic for 30 years


Liam Scarlett with Lauren Cuthbertson, who leads one of the six Swan Lake casts

Photo: Chris McAndrew for The Times


By Debra Craine for The Times of London, May 4 2018


Swan Lake may be the world’s favourite ballet, but it had a difficult birth. Its premiere in Moscow in 1877 (choreographed by Reisinger, one of history’s also-rans) was deemed a failure and Tchaikovsky didn’t live long enough to see his ballet given the reverence it was due. That only came in 1895 with the definitive St Petersburg staging by Petipa and Ivanov. By the end of the 20th century there was scarcely a ballet company in the world that didn’t have a Swan Lake in its repertoire.


And then there were the rebels who put their own spin on the classic. Mats Ek gave the prince an Oedipal complex; John Neumeier recast him as the mad king Ludwig of Bavaria; Christopher Gable turned Von Rothbart into a fascist dictator; and Matthew Bourne gave the corps de ballet of swans a cheeky sex change.


Of one thing you can be sure: Liam Scarlett, in his new production of Swan Lake for the Royal Ballet, won’t be messing around with tradition. Why would he? Covent Garden’s 32-year-old artist in residence is the first to admit that “I’m the biggest ballet geek. I find those old big ballets fascinating and I’m certainly not tempted to knock classical ballet off its perch.”


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