The Mariinsky Ballet’s Oxana Skorik is a dancer known to audiences here. Three years ago, she danced Odette-Odile on this very same stage. On that same tour she made her debut as Nikiya in La Bayadere. For a dancer, three years can be a lifetime and on Sunday afternoon she took to the stage as the company’s newest prima ballerina.

Physically, with her long (very long) tapered limbs and Zakharova-like lines Skorik is close to the platonian ideal. She uses her instrument to good effect – every curl of her supine spine is optimized, every inch of her trailing arm extends into space. To see movement unfolding crevice by crevice with drawn out languor and to see those deep fearless plunges into backbends is fascinating. But stretching every phrase and every movement to its limit can also, as it was the case at various moments, be disconcerting. Perhaps the baroque opacity of her dancing and phrasing, while formally elegant, lacks something in the way of spontaneity; the broad register of her movement not quite yet encompassing the dance's subtler tones. Her eyes are often too stern and one wishes she would vary her effects more. Yet her remarkable physique is capable of lambent drama. But to fully exploit its possibilities she will need a partner to support her pliant, supple body. Xander Parish, an honest, elegant dancer is the splitting image of a prince, but he doesn’t always convince as the best partner for her. Though they get better as the ballet progresses and though they are physically well matched, the central white adagio is hampered by abrupt shifts in weight, visible adjustments and sudden breaks in momentum. All that means Skorik’s dancing never quite gets the chance to fully breathe.

As Odette’s evil twin, Odile, Skorik comes alive. Here she is sensual, keeps a hard edge of malice and retains a hint of mystery. Her lavish use of her back, the physical expression she assumes – her arms are more angular, her fingers more open, her musicality more exact –completes her transformation. Later, when Odette joins her brethren in sorrow, Skorik's eyes dim and all of a sudden she becomes inaccessible again, remote, distant. Though the Mariinsky's version features a Hollywood-esque happily ever after ending, her performance does not make a strong case for the role's dramatic weight.

Perhaps both Skorik and Parish treat their roles largely as abstractions, as a priori facts. That is the way of the production; the Prince bounds onto the stage happily – or in Parish’s case elegantly – and Odette has little mime and, consequently, no story to tell. Still it remains a beautiful production. No where else are the national dances of the third act so lovingly preserved and danced with as much flair and panache. And the grand architecture of the corps' patterns, they way the choreographie unfurls and unfolds never fail to inspire awe. The Mariinsky corps continues to uphold this grandest of traditions. There are some things you expect from a great corps de ballet – organic synchronicity, stylistic unity, breathing harmony. The Mariinsky corps is all that and more. Kudos too to Viktoria Brileva for her lovely big swan performance (what épaulment!), to Anna Lavrinenko for her delightful Neapolitan dance, to Svetlana Ivanova for her exquisite cygnet and to the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, led by Alexei Repnikov.