This holiday season brings another version of a famous classical ballet to Dutch theatres. A special one, as it is “The Greatest Swan Lake in the World”. None other than Derek Deane created a new version of this classic for the Shanghai Ballet. It is very rare to see a Swan Lake of this size, not to mention an Asian company visiting the country. Plenty of reason, therefore, to visit the Amsterdam RAI theater to see another version of this beloved ballet.

Shanghai Ballet © Stardust
Shanghai Ballet
© Stardust

In 2010 Dutch audiences saw a “Greatest Swan Lake in the World” performed by the Perm Ballet in a version of Natalia Makarova. For this new – and even bigger – version, Stardust Theatre invited Derek Deane to work with Shanghai Ballet. A good choice, as the choreographer has a reputation when it comes to creating grand arena productions. His Swan Lake in the round for English National Ballet was a great success, and he will undoubtedly attract more attention worldwide with this new touring production.

This version is more detailed than the previous one and has everything that you’d expect from a classic Swan Lake: grand sets, flattering costumes and a mysterious atmosphere. The dim stage lighting works well for atmosphere but is a bit too dark to focus on the dancing. This could have been solved by using more white light to highlight the soloists. Another shortcoming was the lack of an orchestra. Yet overall the production looks very good which proves that quantity and quality can go hand in hand.

Instead of 16 swans, this production brings 48 swans on to the stage... and the result is fabulous. The swans from the Shanghai Ballet form an homogenous whole, even their arms and hands moving in perfect unison. Their arm movements are so tender and smooth that it seems as if a gentle breeze blowing across the stage brings them in motion. Derek Deane knows how to use this big group of swans to create magical formations: big circles, geometrical shapes and a perfectly shaped heart.

The corps de ballet is technically strong, very precise and above all perfectly synchronized. The soloists of the Shanghai Ballet are technically good, but not outstanding and they are more modest when it comes to acting and showing emotions on stage. Everything is neatly performed, but there were no particular emotional or chorographical highlights in the solos. That said, Wu Husheng and guest soloist Lauren Cuthbertson gave very decent performances as Siegfried and Odette/Odile. He is a true danseur noble with long legs and clean lines and she a particularly beautiful Odette. Her slow and accented movements added to the dramatic impact of this Swan Lake.

This is a very decent production that lives up to expectations but does not exceed them. The uniqueness of this Swan Lake definitely lies in the size of the number of swans which adds extra magic to the lake scenes. The corps of the Shanghai Ballet rivals that of any world famous company, and is reason enough to go and see this unique production.