Swan Lake On Ice

Civic Theatre, cnr of Queen Street & Wellesley Street West, Auckland

26/07/2006 - 05/08/2006

Westpac St James, Wellington

13/07/2006 - 23/07/2006

Production Details

Artistic Director Tony Mercer

Designer Eamon D’Arcy
Costumes by Albena Galubeoa


Swan Lake on Ice

The Imperial Ice Stars, the world’s leading theatrical ice skating troupe, combine the brilliance of ice skating with the intimacy of the theatre, return to New Zealand with a brand new production, Swan Lake On Ice.

The Imperial Ice Stars, under the renowned Artistic Director, Tony Mercer, are widely regarded as the premier ice skating company in the world. He has created an unrivalled show incorporating all the intricate moves seen at the Winter Olympics.

Swan Lake on Ice will be performed to Tchaikovsky’s most loved music by 26 Olympic, World, European and National Championship skaters, who between them have won 210 medals.

The sets, designed by Australia’s leading designer Eamon D’Arcy with the magnificent costumes of Albena Galubeoa – from Moscow’s famed Stanislavsky Theatre.

Swan Lake on Ice is a truly spectacular and unique theatrical experience and a show for all ages.

If you enjoyed The Imperial Ice Stars Sleeping Beauty on Ice, be prepared for the awesome experience of Swan Lake on Ice.

Dance ,

Auckland gives brilliance lack-lustre response

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 27th Jul 2006

While Tchaikovsky’s score is sublime, and Scenic Designer Eamon D-Arcy’s framing of the ice-stage is impressive, and Albina Gabueva’s costumes beautifully elegance, the true stars of the show are of course, the 26 world class ice skaters. The skill Artistic Director / Choreographer Tony Mercer employs, to allow each to shine in their own right, as well as giving the audience an abundance of stunning ensemble vignettes, is second to none.

The story of Swan Lake is well known to many: Prince must choose his future wife, the love he develops for the Swan Princess, who is cursed to remain half human half swan, the plot of evil Rothbart and the ensuring conflict between love and the dark side … Mercer has taken some refreshing liberties with the plot. He balances the telling of this new story with the opportunity to showcase his talented cast, extremely well.

The many children in the opening night audience would have had no trouble following the mood and temperament of each character and scene. In this regard, Swan Lake on Ice is just as much a family show, or a show for all ages, as it is a rare opportunity for any regular ballet, dance or theatre patron to witness an extraordinary feat of artistic and athletic brilliance and glamour.

Mercer’s cast deliver stand out moments a-plenty, not only as uncompromising athletes, but also as performers, ensuring the production works as "theatre-on-ice". Andrei Penkine is lively and engaging as Benno, with charisma that guaranteed him ‘audience favourite’ status. By contrast, Vadim Yarkov as Prince Siegfried is strong and regal. As Odette, Olga Sharutenko captures the romance and intimacy of the role, to great affect. Her scenes with Yarkov are breath-taking. Olean Pietas gives not only grace, but also real compassion to the role of Odile. Anton Kalikow brings intensity and flare to the part of Rothbart.

Each cast member shines in their given virtuoso moments, frequently air-borne, executing a perfect move, lift, turn or astounding combination of all. While those with greater knowledge of the technical terms than I will be more than suitably impressed, I’ve watched enough Winter Olympics on TV to know the Imperial Ice Stars are uniformly masters of their skating craft. Equally impressive, is witnessing the teamwork and trust required for such precision driven and intricate routines.

Costume Designer Albina Gabueva has captured both the beauty of the creatures of the Lake and the elegance, pomp and circumstance of the court, to perfection. But she saves her crowning moments for a series of visiting princesses, all keen to impress the young Prince Siegfried. Her costumes, of course, must allow the cast to skate, twist, turn and even fly; with no encumbrances, yet she makes each gown look like an intricate delicate work of art.

Lighting Designer Gavan Swift enhances the cast and set with great precision, adding some dramatic touches that compliment Mercer’s technical directives, such as a ring of fire and skater on stilts, very well.

While for the most part, Tchaikovsky’s immortal music, re-orchestrated by Musical Arranger Tim A. Duncan and team to suit ice dance, and recorded by The Manchester Light Symphony Orchestra, evokes the emotion and romance originally scored by the composer, occasionally a segment of music ends abruptly, a rude interruption of the musical flow, rather than a logical full stop at the end of a scene.

There is no doubt that The Imperial Ice Star’s Swan Lake on Ice is world-class entertainment. So why did Auckland’s opening night audience give these magnificent athletes and their brilliant creative team such a muted, under-whelming applause? I have experienced this before at large scale epic performances in the Queen city.

Curiously, it doesn’t seem to come from a lack of enjoyment, as all comments I heard and solicited as we left the venue, were extremely positive, a gush of compliments and uniformly full of admiration. Why such a lack lustre response? Are we too polite, too tired, and too self-conscious to stamp our feet, get a little loud, and even yell out our appreciation? Judging from the audience’s reaction last night, you would think the effort and uncompromising skill required to mount such a work, was completely lost on those who watched it.

I truly hope this cast and creative team, are showered with the accolades they so richly deserve, from loud, receptive and grateful audiences, for the remainder of their season here in Auckland.


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Ice, fire and thrills but no tutus

Review by John Smythe 14th Jul 2006

They began skating, most of them, soon after they learned to walk, it’s second nature to them and it shows. The Imperial Ice Stars’ skill level is Olympic standard but Swan Lake on Ice is much more than a demonstration of technique. This production, directed by Tony Mercer, honours the story splendidly – a version, that is, with a hugely dramatic but happy ending.

Vadim Yarkov (who also played the Prince in Sleeping Beauty on Ice here, in 2004), brings great clarity to Prince Siegfried’s rite of passage from bachelor-gay to sought-after heir to the kingdom, tempted by the dark swan Odile but truly in love with the white swan Odette. He lifts, balances and twirls his partners with effortless alacrity, suggesting an aikido-like ability to use the energy that comes at him rather than just force it out of himself.

As his best mate Benno, Andrei Penkine is a delight, so cocky and playful you want him to be more central to the plot. As it is, his suddenly serious need to defend his friend in the spectacular sword-fight sequence sees him grow up fast. 

Anton Klykov’s black swan sorcerer, Count Von Rothbart – father of Odile – is an ice athlete of wicked capabilities, confronting his audience with the dilemma of wanting to boo his powerfully expressed villainy while simultaneously applauding his extraordinary talent.

What red-blooded man would not be attracted to Olena Pyatash’s dark-eyed Odile, but when Olga Sharutenko’s Odette emerges from the ten gorgeous white swans on a steamy ice lake on a starlit night … Of course the young prince, out to shoot game birds with his crossbow, is taken with her utter purity … But then that raven-haired beauty …. Has it not been ever thus?

Then there are the Gaelic girls, and princesses from Italy, Spain, Russia and Hungary, each one – with their consorts – bringing their own cultural flavour to their ‘audition’ for the role of queen …

It is advisable to get a programme ($20 but full of fascinating information) to understand parts of the story not necessarily brought out in performance. For instance it is not at all clear that the ring given Siegfried by his Queen mum then given by him to Odette is hanging from the chain that Rothbart rips from her neck (to use it as the means of getting his daughter betrothed).

But by and large the central story is clear, and the choreography and its execution rise well above the conventions of classical ballet, while retaining some of its motifs, to explore and extend the wondrous potential of this relatively new theatrical form.

To a thorough re-arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s score (exhuming, as I understand it, parts long since dropped from the ballet version), recorded by the Manchester Light Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Tim A Duncan, the entire cast glide, swoop, twirl, lift, throw and spin with focused skill. (I’m told a ‘triple axle’ is the highest-scoring move in competition skating and this show is full of them.)

Along with the skate-based dancing we get point shoes on ice, skating on stilts, back-flips, cart-wheels, feats of great dexterity and strength – and a ring of fire to close the first act: all serving the story more, dare I say, than the average ballet does. Yet when Benno and Rothbart interact with us at the curtain call to check if we want some more – and we do! – the encore displays of sheer skill are simply thrilling in themselves.

Not a tutu in sight, by the way. It was Tony Mercer’s desire to set it in the Romanov period that attracted top Russian designer Albina Gabueva to this production and her costumes are fabulous. A special accolade, by the way, to whoever designed Odette’s seemingly flimsy costume to incorporate a sling that allows her to fly – a breathtaking moment – without a hint of bulky harness.

Australian designer Eamon D’Arcy’s sets are sumptuous (the palace) and evocative (the lake in the forest) and Gavan Swift’s lighting design enhances the magic a treat. Finally mention must be made of the technicians who ensure the ice is right on the night – and repaired during the interval – and others who bring exacting off-stage skill to the on-stage flying sequences.

If you’re a fan of Olympic skating, love a classical story well told and you don’t need to see dying swans to feel you’ve seen the show, Swan Lake on Ice is well worth a visit.


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