Swan Lake On Ice

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

30/06/2010 - 04/07/2010

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

07/07/2010 - 18/07/2010

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

21/07/2010 - 25/07/2010

Production Details



Christchurch –from 30 June
Wellington – from 7 July
Auckland – from 21 July

The world’s premier theatrical ice skating company, The Imperial Ice Stars, are back with a dynamic new interpretation of their award-winning masterpiece Swan Lake on Ice, on a two-year world tour.

With Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, exhilarating new choreography from leading ice director Tony Mercer, and dazzling new costumes, this innovative portrayal of the classic love story will take your breath away.

The 26 World, European and National Championship skaters, who between them hold more than 250 competition medals, take contemporary ice dance to a new level with their daring and graceful feats – some of which are so complex they haven’t yet been named – performed in the intimate setting of a frozen theatre stage.

Their previous three world tours (Sleeping Beauty on Ice, Swan Lake on Ice, Cinderella on Ice) have earned The Imperial Ice Stars an unrivalled reputation for pushing the boundaries in the genre of ice dance with their skill and athleticism on the ice, their creative and powerful story-telling, their sumptuous sets, spectacular special effects and opulent costumes.

The Imperial Ice Stars have won five-star praise from audiences and critics alike, and performed at some of the world’s most prestigious venues – London’s Royal Albert Hall and Sadler’s Wells, Singapore’s Esplanade Theatre, Montreal’s Place des Arts and Cape Town’s Artscape.

This adrenaline-infused Swan Lake on Ice will bring you to the very edge of your seat…

Christchurch –
Isaac Theatre Royal – 8 shows onlyDates: Wed 30 June – Sun 04 Jul 2010
Booking No: 0800 TICKETEK or 03 377 8899

Ticketing Link: http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/shows/show.aspx?sh=SWANLAKE10

St James Theatre
– 15 shows only Dates: Wed 07 Jul – Sun 18 Jul 2010
Booking No: 0800 TICKETEK or 04 384 3840
Website: www.ticketek.co.nz
Ticketing Link: http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/shows/show.aspx?sh=SWANLAKE10

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE
– 8 shows only Dates: Wed 21 Jul – Sun 25 Jul 2010
Booking No: 0800 BUY TICKETS or 09 357 3355
Website: www.buytickets.co.nz
Ticketing Link:  http://www.the-edge.co.nz/swanlakeonice.aspx

Russian classic gorgeous served on ice with twist

Review by Jacqueline Smith 23rd Jul 2010

Tchaikovsky’s Russian love triangle – the tale of Odette, Odile and Prince Siegfried – has toured the world for 135 years, and it seems it will never get old.

The Imperial Ice Stars of Russia, who returned to perform Swan Lake in Auckland this week, have taken the famous production to a new level, replacing ballet shoes with ice skates and adding jaw-dropping acrobatics. [More
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Spectacle serves the story

Review by Raewyn Whyte 22nd Jul 2010

With each successive production, The Imperial Ice Stars under the direction of Tony Mercer continue to redefine the genre of theatrical ice dancing. Rejecting the large scale arena spectacular of competitive ice dancing, they have opted instead to adapt the classic ballets for a 15 metre square ice stage under the proscenium arch, with theatrical lighting, sets and costumes, and accompanied by the cinematic scores of the great ballet composers such as Tchaikovsky.

The international touring company’s latest show, the 2010 version of Swan Lake on Ice, keeps the focus firmly on the narrative and the artistry required to deliver it convincingly, rather than on the spectacular ice maneuvers of which the company’s 26 skilled ice dancers are more than capable.

That’s not to say there is a shortage of astonishing lifts and spins, twizzles and spirals, or complex sequences of turns, but there is more emphasis on very detailed rhythmic footwork and edge work, and on interlacing patterned paths across the ice. 

Attention to musicality is also a hallmark, with subtle nuances of interpretation given their due by the lead characters, and there’s a pleasing balance between scenes involving less than four characters, large numbers of the corps de ballet, and full ensemble sequences.

All of this comes together to create a very engaging show which draws their audience right into the story along the lines of the traditional Swan Lake ballet narrative. This particular version makes some changes to reduce the required level of suspension of disbelief, and the central characters are entirely credible as individuals, regardless of their fantasy role descriptions.

The traditional Swan Lake story is a moral tale about the inevitable downfall which will come to those who flout the conventions of class in the matter of marriage. It is also a fairy story involving an ambitious sorcerer, a flock of swan-women and their beautiful Swan Queen, and the ways in which she escapes from the curse which has her trapped in a swan’s body by night. Beyond that there are umpteen variations. 

The Prince (Andrei Penkine) is all charm, and naturally reluctant to give up his normally relaxed lifestyle. He’d rather hang out with his more dashing mate Benno (Ruslan Novoseltsev) and flirt idly with the ladies than take on the responsibilities of his dead father. On his stag night, he falls in love with a beautiful Swan Queen, and promises to put his ring on her finger if she comes to his birthday ball the next day.

At the ball he is transfixed by Odile (Olena Pyatash) in her splendid dress of mesh, sequins and overlapping silk panels who plays him like a fish on her line and keeps him in thrall til the ring is on her finger. And then he falls apart and rushes away to make amends, pleading his case with the Swan Queen, dueling with Von Rothbart.

The beautiful Swan Queen, Odette (Olga Sharutenko) skates as if born to do so, shimmering across the ice and nestling against his chest as if he is the only one for her. She melds beautifully with her flock, more mentor to them than leader, but clearly she has their loyalty. She stands up assertively against the menacing, evil, power-hungry sorcerer Von Rothbart (Vadim Yarkov), and is sympathetic to the plight of his daughter Odile who has been duped by her father.

Just before the exultant climax of the story, there is a rich sequence which is entirely invented for this production, animated by innovative choreography and communicating a welter of emotions: shock, betrayal, compassion, apology, sympathy, and ultimately redemption and reconciliation between Odette and Odile and the Prince, such that the denouement can credibly proceed and the audience can have their desired happy ending, with Odette beating the curse, shedding her swan feathers and able to become the woman the Prince needs in their new life together.

A standing ovation on opening night in Auckland acknowledged all the aspects of the production, not just the fine performances but also the masterly sets designed by Eamon D’Arcy; the rich array of costumes designed by Albina Georgievna Gabueva which ranged from Romanov era noble finery in pastel hues to outlandish bird-men outfits for Von Rothbart’s henchmen, and the efforts of the various crews who looked after the ice, flew Odette safely in her impressive aerial sequences, and made sure everyone was in the right place at the right time.

And of course, it was a sign of their delight in the way the skaters cut loose and showed their best moves as part of the final bows. 
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Spirited ice show enchants crowd

Review by Ann Hunt 09th Jul 2010

The young child next to me sat entranced on the edge of her seat and whispered: “It’s so beautiful!” And it was. This enchanting production captures all the magic of the original ballet and adds theatrical punch and psychological depth. There are changes to the scenario, which work well in this context.

The work is successfully condensed from four acts to two; the dual role of the Swan Queen Odette and the sorcerer’s daughter Odile, usually played by one dancer, is here danced by two. The end is a happy one. Artistic director/ choreographer Tony Mercer has achieved his stated intention of presenting a logical and real storyline that still retains its fairytale magic. [More]
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Escapism of the highest order

Review by Jenny Stevenson 08th Jul 2010

The standards of artistic excellence of this production of Swan Lake on Ice have remained at a very high level in the interval of four years since it was first performed in Wellington.  At that time it was a brand-new production, trading on the “shock of the new” in creating a novel dance form – that of ballet on ice.  In the interim, we as audiences have come to appreciate the genre and the new criteria for artistry that it entails.

The artistry appears to lie not so much in the individual interpretive skills of the dancer, as is the case in classical ballet, where an elite artist can lift the technical excellence of their performance into the realms of the sublime through an ability to individually interpret the choreographer’s intent. 

Instead, ice-dance artistry appears to build on the performers’ security in their technique that enables them to incorporate a thrilling sense of derring-do into their interpretations of the role.  The audience is swept up in the excitement of the illusions that are created: the unique sensation of the gliding human form that precludes the inherent rhythms of walking or running, and bodies spinning so fast that our vision is blurred. 

The result is a genre where the protagonists assume the mythical proportions of the fairy-tale, because they move in a manner that is beyond the realms of our comprehension.

So Odette, in this version of Swan Lake, is self-empowered; no longer a victim, instead she deals to the conniving Baron Von Rothbart and wins back her man.  The pathos is turned to victory and ‘survival of the fittest’ takes on a whole new meaning.

Reprising the role of Odette from her previous Wellington appearance, Olga Sharutenko displays all the subtle nuances of her character’s development with the apogee being the beautiful flying sequences and the pas-de-deux, which is actually danced en-pointe on the ice.

Olena Pyatesh, also reprising her role of Odile dances a steely yet flirtatious sequence in Act Two with the right amount of seduction to ensure she dazzles the hapless Prince Siegfried. 

Andre Penkin as Siegfried is an undoubted star.  When last here, he played the part of Benno, Siegfried’s exuberant side-kick, but as Siegfried he bubbles with a barely-repressed boyish excitement, anxious to take on the world and all that it entails.  When he realises the consequences of his betrayal of Odette, his pain is palpable – but he turns it around with a flashing sword-fight on ice, in the best romantic tradition, to win back his true love. 

Ruslan Novoseltsev is charming as Benno, constantly at his Prince’s side and not averse to a little flirtation with the Prince’s rejects.  His strong technique is displayed to the fullest in the competitive show-off sequences between him and Siegfried. 

Vadim Yarkov, who played Siegfried in the last production, nails the cunning persona and the swirling theatricality of the Baron Von Rothbart role, relishing the ability to conjure up such tricks as ‘flaming’ the ice to realise his ambitions.

The huge corps-de-ballet of ice dancers go a long way to recreating the fairy-tale world with their dazzling technique and the innovative tricks that are displayed throughout the ballet, particularly in the Divertissements sequences in Act Two where Princesses from many nations are vying for Siegfried’s attention.  This becomes a glorious excuse to try and out-do each other in bravura displays of technique created by Artistic Director and Choreographer, Tony Mercer.

The technical wizardry of this production is admirable, contributing greatly to its success – with enormous attention to detail in the costuming, lighting and set, as well as the creation of the ice-stage itself. 

There is much to admire in this stunning two-hour plus show, which is escapism of the highest order, holding even the youngest members of the audience in its thrall.
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Emotion and story prevail over astonishing technique

Review by Brigid Kelly 01st Jul 2010

One of ballet’s most often-presented classics has been given new heart and a touch of fire in this lavish, satisfying production by touring Russian company Imperial Ice Stars.

While balletic conventions and feeling have been retained, this is not a conventional Swan Lake, and not just because it’s performed by skaters on an ice rink, built on the stage over two days. The story departs significantly from the most familiar version. Odette (Olga Sharuntenko) and Odile (Olena Pyantash) are clearly two different women, making Siegfried’s choice that of a boy with his head turned, not of mistaken identity.

We encounter Odile and Rothbart in the first act and while Rothbart remains enigmatic, if seductive, the initially disturbing Odile eventually reveals a sweet humanity beneath her sophisticated feathers. Here also is an Odette who, though beautifully emotional and vulnerable, shows some guts.

It is split into only two fast-paced acts (though all scenes are present) and the Soviet-style happy ending is rendered thrilling and uncertain with swords and a swan on swan battle.

Andrey Pekin as fickle Siegfried is loose limbed and charming. He’s outshone somewhat by his buddy Benno (a robust and charismatic Ruslan Novoseltsev) but steps up well as the romantic lead as the story unfolds. Pekin fell twice (recovering fast and admirably), which made me wonder if he was injured or unwell. He was otherwise very good.

The chemistry between Sharuntenko and Pekin is marvellous; Sharuntenko in particular is wonderfully eloquent and well cast, having a fresh fairness that contrasts with Pyantash’s saturnine leanness and more world-weary air. Yet in the end it’s Odile you feel most for.

The lavish sets are lovely and work well with the softly-coloured Romanof-era costuming, which, curiously, gives the court scenes a very modern feel that contrasts notably with the unearthly beauty of those by the lake.

The Rothbarts, all creepily intimate Vampires 101 in black and red – Odile particularly exotic in jewelled turban and Poiret-style wrap – introduce a note of perversion that’s reinforced later when we meet the all-male, masked, mostly shirtless Black Swans. This is a rather sexy, adult Swan Lake, though ultimately very romantic, and children will enjoy it.

As well as the Imperial Russian setting there are, to my eye, suggestions of Russian folk dance in some of the choreographic choices, particularly in the pretty reworking of the well-known cygnets’ dance. This is also in many ways a man’s show. Despite two compelling principal Swan Princesses and five more in the divertissements, the international princesses in particular are almost outshone by their attendants, though the Italian Princess (Viktoriia Polzynkina) was wonderfully light and engaging.

The Black Swans are seriously manly with their huge feathered shoulders and Rothbart (a louche Vadim Yarkov) is unpleasant, but in a way that makes you want to see more. And ice dancing allows them to show off the kind of strength feats we’re familiar with from the sporting rink. 

The technical challenges of ice dancing in such a confined space are, I am assured, huge. Unlike dancers, skaters in full flight cannot stop in a hurry and unison work is fraught with peril. At times, it is easy to forget that these assured performers are actually on skates. At others the advantages of the medium are showcased – no dancer can travel backward that smoothly and that fast – affording opportunities for some spectacular, challenging lifts and spins.

The small size of the stage limits how high these performers can go and how many times they can turn midair, so you won’t see Olympic level movements here, but it also makes what they do achieve all the more impressive. There is, however, a well-balanced mix of lyrical dancing, eloquent mime and sporting feats, seamlessly blended.

Tony Mercer’s choreography illuminates the poignancy in the well-worn score (which is all Tchaikovsky and all Swan Lake, though some less familiar parts have been chosen). It never seems trite, and the recording is beautiful.

In a performance filled with spectacle it seems petty to feel some disappointment at Odile’s ballroom appearance. The 32 fouettes may be tired (and tiring) but I was expecting something that replicated their repetitive brilliance, especially given the nature of ice dance where long spins can be sustained. But the endless spin never came. Perhaps that is the point: Odile’s charms are slinky, looking ahead perhaps to Russian orientalism while the rest are firmly in the Romantic era. And the lack of ballroom flash is more than made up for by the exquisitely poignant pas de trois between Siegfried, Odette and Odile at the lake later.

The show is extremely technical. Name a special effect and it’s there – fire, flight, snow, torches, working fountain and chandeliers, UV, dry ice, scrim effects – and there are some astonishing human tricks on display. It’s thus a credit to Mercer and cast that the emotion and the story are not overwhelmed by them. Swan Lake on Ice combines spectacular and challenging skating with brilliant and lyrical dance. 
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