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Swan Lake on Ice – theatre review from The Blurb
Russia’s Imperial Ice Stars replaced ballet slippers with skates for their breathtaking rendition of Tchaikovsky’s enchanting ballet, Swan Lake.

Parton Words: Swan Lake on ice
By Parton Words
Took the girls along last night to the opening performance in Canberra of the Imperial Ice Stars Swan Lake on Ice. Wow ! What a night ? Wonderful costumes. A great set. The music of Tchaikovsky. And the amazing skating talents of these
Parton Words –


Review below and social snaps from MiSociety website

Acrobat Reader File – Opening night Swan Lake MiSociety Review

SLOI Canberra

Acrobat Reader File 1 Swan_Lake_pg_4

Acrobat Reader File 2 Swan_Lake_pg_5

Tchaikovsky would have been proud. And mesmerised.

In fact, if he were alive today I am confident he would have been thrilled to watch the reaction of the audience to last night’s opening of Swan Lake on Ice at the State Theatre. With gasps of delight and awe, a full house applauded the magnificent performance by the world renowned Imperial Ice Stars and left at the end of nearly two exhilarating hours with the privilege of re-visiting a masterpiece.

Combining both the athleticism and skill of the ice skaters with a timeless fairytale, the story of Swan Lake in the hands of Artistic Director/Choreographer Tony Mercer brought magic to the stage with the music of one of Russia’s greatest composers: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Keeping to the traditional version of the story of the beautiful swan maiden doomed to live forever as half swan and half human until the true love of a faithful man can set her free, Mercer affirmed Tchaikovsky’s original decision to set the characters of Odette and Odile to be played by different performers thus creating the love triangle between the Prince, his swan princess and the daughter of the evil Baron Von Rothbart.

The main characters are all brilliant to watch. Olga Sharutenko as Swan maiden Odette literally flies across the stage with breathtaking elegance while her Prince (Andrey Penkin) not only displayed agility on ice but was an excellent actor as well. Other stellar performances were given by the Prince’s friend Benno (Ruslan Novoseltsev) who added much of the humour to the performance and Baron Von Rothbart (Vadim Yarkov) who with his despicable attempts to thwart true love was one of the strongest characters on stage.

The dramatic narrative of Swan Lake has a very clear development and in the Director’s Notes Mercer explains that his vision was to avoid ‘storyboard moments’ that only a offer a vestige of understanding. Instead as this version of Swan Lake illustrates  the ‘storyline has a logical and realistic pattern but also retains its fairytale magic‘. The performance in two acts gently navigates the audience through the topology of the palace where mercenary marriage contracts are being contemplated by the Prince and his mother while nearby at the brimming and secretive waters of the Lake the beautiful swans in all their grace and beauty offer a glimpse into a very different slice of existence.

Worlds collide in this production of Swan Lake and do so in a fantastic way. Not only does the soft pointe of the ballet shoe meet the hard steel of the skate but with Mercer’s own original twist the traditional divides between good and evil are blurred allowing for a welcome shift of the lyrical beauty of the fairytale into our own more prosaic world.

With new choreography that includes skating elements never before seen in the world of figure skating, superb costuming undertaken by Albina Gabueva and amazing sets pieces by one of Australia’s leading scenic designers Eamon D’Arcy this is drama that transfigures the theatre into a lyrical and poetic space, all with the magic of ice.

Written by Dione Joseph
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 15:07
Australian Stage On Line review from the opening night  
The Imperial Ice Stars present


Director/Choreographer Tony Mercer


Venue: State Theatre, The Arts Centre
Dates: From 3 August
Bookings: 1300 182 183 or | 1300 136 166 or
Venue: Burswood Theatre
Dates: From 13 August
Bookings: 1300 795 012 or
Venue: Lyric Theatre, Star City
Dates: From 27 August
Bookings: 1300 795 267 or
Venue: Canberra Theatre
Dates: From 8 September
Bookings: (02) 6275 2700 or

Photos – David Wyatt





Swan Lake On Ice
The Imperial Ice Stars at ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland
Until 25 Jul 2010

Reviewed by Raewyn Whyte, 22 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.

Ballet Review: Swan Lake ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre

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 … More

Dance review: The Imperial Ice Stars Swan Lake on Ice
By ANN HUNT – The Dominion Post
Last updated 08:28 09/07/2010

The Imperial Ice Stars Swan Lake on Ice
St James Theatre, Wellington, until July 18
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.
This stunning production uses splendid ice dance, magical aerial work, acrobatics and fiery special effects to blur the line between reality and enchantment. Olga Sharutenko (Odette) is a beautiful ice dancer and sensitive actor. Her Swan Queen is gravely commanding, vulnerable and loving, yet displays a strong fighting spirit when she confronts Von Rothbart in act two.
Olena Pyatash convinces as Odile and uses excellent technique and pliant arms to create a many-layered, sympathetic character. As the Prince, Andrey Penkin, while charming, is more problematic. A previously successful Benno, he has a way to go in developing the role of Prince Siegfried. Although an excellent skater, with a most engaging personality, his work is studded with body mannerisms which prevent real emotion from surfacing.
Vadim Yarkov’s Von Rothbart is darkly menacing and well conveys the power that keeps Odette in his thrall, while Ruslan Novoseltsev as Benno brought the house down with his brilliant technique and panache. The ball variations were well danced, with a particularly pleasing Russian variation, and the corps de ballet are superb.
Eamon D’Arcy’s beautiful yet immensely functional sets are masterly. Designer Albina Georgievna Gabueva’s costumes for act one are particularly stunning – from the Romanov- inspired, pastel palette of the opening scene to the delicate floating swan dresses. Less successful are some of the foreign guests’ ball costumes and the headdresses for the swans and crows.
But these are minor quibbles in a spectacular production that had the opening night audience cheering and shouting. After all, we do need happy endings now and again.

Swan Lake On Ice
The Imperial Ice Stars

at St James Theatre, Wellington
Until 18 Jul 2010

Reviewed by Jenny Stevenson, 8 Jul 2010 – Swan Lake On Ice

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.

hi. please find below a link to the story filmed in Moscow and screened tonight on TVNZ Close Up. thought it was pretty fabulous.

Here is a Downloadable and Viewable Acrobat Reader ( PDF ) File – A&EJuly1-E13


Ice ballet is elegant, energetic

The Press

Last updated 05:00 01/07/2010

FROZEN STAGE: Swan Lake on Ice.

Swan Lake is already one of the world’s most beautiful ballets, but set it on a frozen stage and the splendour turns to elegant grace.

There’s not much more to say than this production of Swan Lake On Ice is magical.

Twenty-six world, European and Russian ice stars perform in this dynamic, contemporary interpretation set to Tchaikovsky’s haunting, yet exhilarating, score.

At the beginning we’re introduced to Prince Siegfried (Andrey Penkin) who wins us over instantly with his charm and the mischievous smile in his eyes. Deliciously evil, yet beautiful, Odile (Olena Pyatash) and her father, Baron Von Rothbart (Vadim Yarkov), try to lure the prince in to marrying her, but he meets and makes a promise of love at the swan’s lake to the truly gorgeous Odette (Olga Sharutenko).

It’s not until later, when the prince breaks that promise, that we see the battle of evil (Odile) trying to sway a good boy – deceived by lustful seduction, and the agonising revelation when his swan finds out.

The most poignant moment in the performance is when Odile makes a tragically beautiful decision, against the will of her father, when she sees the love the prince has for Odette and hands back the ring.

It’s in this scene that we see some of the show’s most breathtaking pieces of dancing on ice.

This show’s choreography is incredibly precise, elegant, energetic and, at times, daring. The set is simply stunning and the costumes alone are worth seeing the show for.

Although here as part of a two- year world tour, the cast’s energy is as high as if on opening night or in a world-class skating competition. Their skills were showcased superbly at The Palace Ballroom – moving with dedicated discipline.

REVIEW Swan Lake On Ice. The Imperial Ice Stars. Artistic director/choreographer Tony Mercer. Isaac Theatre Royal. Until Sunday. Reviewed by Kineta Knight.

A quick word: Olga Sharutenko
New Zealand Herald
By Jacqueline Smith View as one page Former world junior ice skating champ plays Odette in Swan Lake on Ice which is returning to Auckland this month.

Capital Times – New Zealand


Out of the cold – lifestyle – the-press |
The Imperial Ice Stars‘ secret weapon, though, relies on alchemy. While skill, talent and showmanship – all of which the cast has in spades – are vital,
Surviving History: ice
By Allie
I went to Swan Lake on Ice (performed by the Imperial Ice Stars) yesterday, in the afternoon, at the Theatre Royal, with my sister and Niece-Aged-3. As I have mentioned before here, Niece-Aged-3 is obsessed with princesses,
Surviving History –
Swan Lake on Ice Competition
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Theatreview: The New Zealand Performing Arts Review & Directory
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
Swan lake on ice at Rydges Christchurch
The world’s premier theatrical ice skating company,are back with a dynamic new interpretation of their award-winning Swan Lake on Ice, on a two-year world…/Winter-Jam.htm
Swan Lake On Ice The Imperial Ice Stars Edinburgh Playhouse United
Swan Lake On Ice The Imperial Ice Stars Edinburgh Playhouse United Kingdom UK Discount Cheap Seats Tickets Row – MyCityRocks Ticket Exchange UK – My City…
Ice ballet is elegant, energetic |
REVIEW Swan Lake On Ice. The Imperial Ice Stars. Artistic director/choreographer Tony Mercer. Isaac Theatre Royal. Until Sunday. Reviewed by Kineta Knight.…/Ice-ballet-is-elegant-energet…

October 25, 2006
Dance ****
The Times
Among colleagues of mine involved in dance, the very tide of this production by the imperial Ice Stars has induced suspicion and a faint trace of ridicule. An ice show with aspirations to high art? You’ve got to be kidding. And yet on its own terms this version of the tale of a prince who falls for a cursed bird-girl really flies.
The show, which is touring the UK until June, can’t help but invite comparisons with its classical ballet source. Purists, be warned. Ringing novel changes on a familiar story, the director Tony Mercer uses a sometimes disconcertingly choppy rearrangement of Tchaikovsky’s score to suit a two-act format.
Here the flock of swans is on blades, not pointe shoes. Butt although the stage floor is covered in three inches of ice, the emotional tone of the performance isn’t frigid at all. Choreographed by a creative, team that includes leading skaters Olga Sharutenko (Odette) and Vadim Yarkov (Siegfried), this Swan Lake juxtaposes lyricism and athletic spectacle. The cast is composed of just over two dozen championship skaters, most of whom are Russian.
That the ensemble routines and string of national dances are so pleasing owes almost as much to the designs as to the skaters’ skills. Eamon D’Arcy’s sumptuous sets and Albino Gabueva’s stylish (and occasionally OTT) Romanov-era costumes are far more appealing than I’ve seen from some ballet troupes.
But there is more at work here than flashy attractions. To introduce dramatic motivation into a genre normally associated with sport or kitsch superficialities is no mean achievement.
The scenario is rendered in clear, broad and sometimes surprising strokes, as when Odette confronts Anton Klykov’s satanically elegant Rothbart rather than merely submit to his machinations. Mercer further subverts ballet convention by doublecasting Odette and Odile.
The flow of feeling between Sharutenko and Yarkov in their pas de deux is echoed in the latter’s partnering of Olena Pyatash’s sparkling not-so-evil Odile. The happy ending is hokey, but on a deeper level also strangely satisfying.
September 17, 2006
Skate Expectations
The Sunday Express, UK
by Andrea Hubert

Long dismissed as deeply uncool, theatrical ice shows are undergoing a renaissance – thanks to a spectacular new production of Swan Lake. Andrea Hubert wonders whether this is the beginning of a new ice age…As theatre goes, ice shows have never flirted with the cutting edge of cool. In fact, the concept is more likely to conjure up images of Mickey Mouse twirling a baton round a giant rink while audiences shiver into their ski jackets, than a night of quality entertainment.But all that is about to change with the world tour of Swan Lake On Ice, the latest and most ambitious theatrical ice show from veteran British producers Tony Mercer and James Cundall. Riding on the success of ITV’s Dancing On Ice, which scored ratings of almost 11 million viewers earlier this year, the show will be filling the world’s finest performance spaces and looks set to take the UK by storm.

The idea of switching the ballet from the stage to the ice seems so obvious – what other surface would lend itself better to gliding lines of graceful cygnets – that you wonder why Swan Lake On Ice isn’t performed perennially. But when you look into the logistics, it’s not surprising that this well-loved story has stayed on terra firma – until now.

Swan Lake has taken two years from “page to stage”, as Mercer puts it, and the massive undertaking would be enough to halt a lesser producer in his tracks. The sheer scale of the preparation is mind boggling. Almost 14 tonnes of ice are used -that’s 14,000 litres of water, enough to fill more than 150 baths. And with 2,500 litres of antifreeze, huge ice machines generating enough electricity to run 45 radiators and a rink that takes 140 hours to build, it’s not surprising that many producers prefer to take their chance with the traditional ballet instead.

Indeed, Swan Lake On Ice will be Britain’s first theatrical skating show since 1942, when a production was staged but then abandoned because of an antiquated ice system. But fast forward sixty-four years and the genre is finally making a comeback – thanks to the drive and passion of Mercer and Cundall.

It was after seeing Torvill and Dean’s inspirational Face The Music tour in 1991 that Mercer decided to relocate to Russia to set up the Russian Imperial Ice Stars, a troupe of the world’s best professional skaters, with Cundall, his friend and co-producer. “When I saw Torvill and Dean perform, that’s when it hit me.” says Mercer. `I could see that the audience wished they could be more up close and personal to the skaters.” The pair went on to put on a production of Sleeping Beauty On Ice. It was supposed to run for nine months – but two years and 500,000 tickets later, audiences couldn’t get enough. “I realised then that we were on to something,” Mercer says. “Not just the fantastic reviews, but the sheer demand. It was time to move ice shows from their traditional, rather naff arena of the big sport rink. That’s simply not theatre. You can’t develop a genre overnight, but I really think now is the time for the ice theatre to come into its own.”

Olga Sharutenko, who will play the starring role. Odette, agrees: “It’s time ice skating theatre performances got the recognition they deserve. Swan Lake On Ice brings something unique to the story. The beauty of skating is the ability to simply glide across the stage in the graceful way one imagines the swan doing – it is like flying. Sometimes ice can tell the parts of a story that ballet can’t reach. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Having graced the ice since the age of three, the 28-year-old champion skater – who British audiences will recognise from our own Dancing On Ice. where she performed with actor John Barrowman – is at the cutting edge of her profession and the rest of the cast of Swan Lake On Ice is no less impressive.

Such is the reputation of Mercer and Cundall that they have attracted the cream of the crop to join the Russian Imperial Ice Stars. Between them, the performers have won an impressive 200 medals and are choreographed by the world’s top Olympic coaches. And it’s a testament to their skill and precision that many of the moves – usually not even attempted on a 60m x 60m rink – are seamlessly executed on the comparatively tiny 15m x 15m stage.

But those who are expecting a faithful reproduction of the ballet will be disappointed. “Ice dancing is a totally different medium to ballet,” explains Mercer. “Other producers want to transfer the stage show of Swan Lake directly to the ice and it doesn’t work. While ballet and skating are similar in terms of grace and beauty, the skills used are very different and skating deserves its own specific choreography.”

Surprisingly little was written down during the creation of the music and choreography of the original Swan Lake and the lack of stage directions left Mercer free to interpret the show as he saw it. The classic story has also been modernised. The love triangle between the hapless Prince, Princess Odile and the beautiful swan Odette has been given a dramatic and much more human twist, of which Mercer feels Tchaikovsky would have approved wholeheartedly. Clearly the audiences are lapping it up in any case.

Cundall was surprised at the reaction from some of the younger faces in the crowd. “I always talk to the audience – it’s the only way to really see if they are enjoying themselves,” he says. “These days. I see the Riverdance types, the ice skating types, the ballet snobs, the musical lovers and the twentysomething girls who drag along their boyfriends. And when you look at the boyfriends’ faces, you can see that despite themselves. they’re loving every minute.”

And what’s not to love. From the incredible, graceful moves of the breathtakingly skilled dancers to the emotive acting from the leads, the audience is saturated with larger-than-life extravagance from the start. Intricate period costumes sparkle, elaborate sets harking back to springtime in St Petersburg charm the eye and the lake itself, laden with layer upon layer of floaty, magical scenery that seems to stretch back forever, is surrounded by a shimmering haze of mist that has to be seen to be believed.

This is a brilliant example of a spectacle in the true sense of the word and Mercer is hopeful that the production will inspire a new following of ice-show fans: “We want this show to make people in the UK pick up where Torvill and Dean left off. My dream is that people who love Swan Lake the ballet will come to see our show and it will change their perception of ice theatre. We want to do for the ice show what Cirque Du Soled has done for the circus genre.”

No small ambition then – but if the feverish applause after the world premiere in Auckland is anything to go by, it looks like Swan Lake On Ice is set to carve out a niche for this cool new genre.
September 13, 2006
Ice ballet of thrilling theatrics
The Canberra Review, Australia
by Bill Stephens

This “Swan Lake” is a truly magical theatrical presentation. Combining the ethereal beauty of classical ballet, and the speed and athleticism of world-champion ice skaters with Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, director and choreographer Tony Mercer has created a “Swan Lake” that is beautiful to watch and engages the intellect.

By respecting the source material and extending it to new heights he has created a theatrical experience which is imaginative, sensitive and quite thrilling. In fact with this “Swan Lake on Ice” he has raised the bar, and may well have changed the direction for ice shows of the future.

All the familiar characters are there. The handsome Prince Siegfried (Vadim Yarkov), his friend Benno (Andrei Penkine), the wicked Baron Rothbart (Anton Klykov), his ambitious daughter Odile (Olena Pyatash) and, of course, Odette, the beautiful swan princess (Olga Sharutenko). All are virtuoso skaters with impeccable technique, and all bring an unexpected level of dramatic involvement to their roles.

Indeed, the level of skating skill throughout the whole company is impressive, with extraordinarily difficult elements being put to the service of the choreography, while the combination of dazzling speed and relatively small ice area added more than a frisson of danger to the proceedings.

In this “Swan Lake”, the essence of the Petipa choreography is reflected throughout, most notably in the dance of the cygnets, and the national dances at the ball. But on this ice lake, the skating swans are able to glide gracefully through the fog, and in one breathtaking episode (during the famous pas de deux) Odette actually becomes air-borne and soars swanlike above Siegfried. The effect is enchanting.

Elsewhere, Anton Klykov’s villainous Rothbart, flanked by black-clad skaters on stilts, was engulfed in a circle of real flame rising from the ice, and the excitingly staged sword fight between Rothbart and Siegfried drew cheers from the audience.

The production values throughout are impressive. Eamon D’Arcy, who was the production designer for the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, has devised a series of lavish settings, beautifully lit by Gavan Swift, for which costume designer Albina Gabueva, has used a subdued palette for her graceful, flowing Romanov period costumes. Her designs for the swans are particularly beautiful and evocative.

Odette’s rival for Siegfried’s affections, Odile, is a much more likeable character than usually portrayed, who upon realising that the prince is really in love with Odette, graciously steps aside and returns his engagement ring. This new relationship is expressed in a stunning pas de trios in the second act during which Odette and Odile are both carried around the ice by Prince Siegfried.

But one does not need to be familiar with the ballet to enjoy this production. “Swan Lake on Ice” is aimed at a mass audience, and it is hard to imagine a better introduction for either child or adult to Tchaikovsky’s glorious music or for that matter, to the art of ice skating. This is theatrical magic. Miss it at your peril.
August 21, 2006
Swan Lake casts its spell
The West Australian

by Naomi Millett

Swan Lake is the ultimate fairytale – so popular since its beginnings as a ballet 130 years ago that some company somewhere around the globe is performing the two-act work every day of the year.That means plenty of dance versions for the purists, with room left over for some genre-blending in this updated version of the classic by artistic director/choreographer Tony Mercer. It has been two years since the Imperial Russian Ice Stars last wooed us in Perth and expectations were high as patrons perused another lavish, glitter-encrusted souvenir program.

With its central love story, a thrilling battle between good and evil, elements of the supernatural and Tchaikovsky’s uplifting score, Swan Lake has timeless appeal. But reworked on ice for 25 of Russia’s most talented competitive skaters, it is transported into a new, high-tech realm of sophistication.

As the curtain rises we are struck both by the exquisitely detailed, richly hued, 18th century palace ballroom setting and by the chill emanating from the 14 tonnes of frozen water used on the tiny 15m wide stage – a quarter of the size of a normal skating arena. This is the magical domain of Prince Siegfried, (dashingly played by Vadim Yarkov) seen living it up at his 21st birthday party with playful best mate Benno (crowd favourite Andrei Penkine) and an array of gorgeously attired guests.

The choreography flows effortlessly with stylised court dances before the dramatic interruption of Anton Klykov’s black-taped, devilish Count Von Rothbart and accompanying leatherclad henchmen.

Exuding evil charisma, Klykov’s half-bird, half-man ripped across the stage, sending ice chips arcing through the air with a sound like swords being sharpened on steel. Perhaps the most outstanding ice technician, he too was a huge hit, as was his wild, scarlet and black costumed daughter Odile (Olena Pyatash). These equivalents of modern day terrorists are not to be messed with; in later sequences they become monstrous, winged menaces on stilts, threatening all who cross their woodland path.

In the course of 13 short scenes, intricate backdrops rise and fall in seconds, allowing the tale to progress effortlessly. The details are easy to follow with extensive program notes, but even without this the cast’s skilled mime clearly conveys all the action. Throughout, Mercer and his creative team add spice to the ice with a breathtaking array of special effects and acrobatic stunts that enhance the cast’s expressive artistry and grace.

The swans, eerily illuminated in ultraviolet light, literally take off and at one point Swan Princess Odette (Olga Sharutenko) conveys her vulnerability by swapping skates for ballet shoes in a delicate homage to the original dance. Showstealing moments among many in Act Two include a tension-ridden confrontation between physical dynamo Rothbart and Odette, and a set of national dances (including a witty take on Riverdance) featuring an array of princesses keen to win the Prince’s hand.

One of two significant plot variations is that Mercer has opted to add realism by employing two different women to represent Odette and Odile, rather than the usual one performer. As for the other “twist”, you will have to see the show or the surprise will be spoiled.

With its stellar cast and stylish blend of traditional and modern theatrics and ice dance, this Swan Lake is a spellbinding dramatic experience that will thrill the senses. Opening night’s performance was met with multiple curtain calls and a standing ovation from an ecstatic capacity audience.
July 28, 2006
Flash and Dash on Ice
New Zealand Herald

by Raewyn Whyte

Those amazing skaters from Russia, the Imperial Ice Stars, have returned to the Civic with their version of Swan Lake, a traditional Russian fairytale familiar to ballet fans. The company’s 25 superb skaters are all flash, dash and panache on the ice, the soloists well able to meet the demands of characterisation combined with spectacular manoeuvres, and the corps de ballet displaying the necessary uniformity to create symmetrical designs in space.The story is cleanly told, with events shifting from palace to forest to lakeside and back. Despite a rollicking pace there are enough quiet moments to create the allure and romance and poignancy which are the essence of the plot. This production ups the stakes on what can be achieved on a pocket handkerchief of ice stage, thanks to sophisticated choreography which has as many as 14 skaters at a time tracing intricately choreographed patterns across the ice.

They create interlocking circles, overlapping spirals, flower blossoms, slow serpentines threading their way between spinning soloists and pairs. The emphasis is on partner dancing, with women deftly tossed, spun, lifted, or held by one skate and spun horizontally, the men showing little sign of the effort expended to achieve these spectacular feats over and over.

Twos interlock to become fours, and then sixes, then another six merge to create a smoothly rotating wheel. Some of the partnering is astonishing, and the prince dances with two and even three women supported on his body at once. The production is tastefully stylish, quite different from the sumptuous kitsch of the company’s Sleeping Beauty.

Costume designs by Albina Gabuyeva are modelled on those of the court of Nikolai in the early 1900s, adapted to the skaters’ needs for non-slip fabrics and optimum skirt length. The colour palette is mostly restrained – browns and beiges, whites and silvers and greys, with brighter, brasher colours reserved for the divertissements from Spain and Italy and Hungary in the ball scene, and for the prince’s mother.

The villainous Rothbart and his pawn Odette are all black and red – she even has red LEDs on her boots, and Rothbart’s henchman wear black. Ballet fans will be happy to see the hallmark moments fittingly adapted to ice dancing, with a remarkably apt Dance of the Cygnets, and the romantic pas de deux of Siegfried and Odette at the lakeside in Act 1 convincingly danced.
July 27, 2006
The Imperial Ice Stars’ Swan Lake on Ice is a night of magic, beauty and a magnificent exhibition of athletic artistry
View Auckland, New Zealand

by Fiona McLaren

Under the direction of Tony Mercer, this team of 26 Olympic, World, European and National Championship skaters—who between them have won over 200 medals—performs a refreshing interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.Mercer’s choreography touches on the near impossible, breaking many of the figure skating rules and displaying dangerously beautiful moves never seen before. He combines romantic ballet with the daring speed and athleticism of ice skating to create an awe-inspiring performance.

The story of Prince Siegfried and his love for Odette and Odile is told with powerful characterisation and clarity. The accomplished Vadim Yarkov skates with authority as Prince Seigfried. Olga Sharutenko (as Odette) and Olena Pyatash (as Odile) both demonstrate grace, combined with astounding speed, agility and prowess.

The fabulous Andrei Penkine shines as Benno; Siegfried’s best friend. His evanescence and cheeky energy ensure he is a crowd pleaser. Even the evil Rothbart, played by Anton Klykov, has such power and formidable athleticism, that you can not help but like him.

Mercer’s spectacular choreography maintained some of the traditional features of the original ballet, but included additional lifts, leaps, high speed, aerial work, acrobatics, stilt work and even a ring of fire to enthral the audience.

Moments of delicate pointe work convene with a world of speed and steel skates. With not a tutu in sight, Mercer creates an effortlessly dramatic performance.

Particular appeal in this interpretation of Swan Lake on Ice came from the dominant role of the male cast. It was refreshing to see outstanding acrobatics and mesmerising grace of the male dancers throughout the entire piece.

The audience was captured by the intense emotion between Siegfried, Odette and Odile. This trio is simply poetic. Danger, precision and power bring together the final duel between Siegfried and the evil Rothbart, leaving the audience feeling tense yet exhilarated.

Finally, Prince Siegfried and Odette’s embrace depicts pure tenderness and draws Swan Lake on Ice to a close.

Exquisite early 20th-century-inspired Russia costumes—with subtle tones and beautiful draping—emphasised the fluidity of the dancers’ movement as they travel around the ice.

Eamon D’Arcy, one of Australia’s leading set designers, renowned for his production of the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games, created a magnificent and historically researched back drop.

The lake was a place of mystery and beauty; the ballroom full of splendour; and the delightful St Petersburg Square during spring time (my particular favourite) was simply stunning.

The Imperial Ice Star’s mesmerising interpretation of Swan Lake on ice is a must see … a magical theatrical experience that will appeal to any audience. Even ballet purists will appreciate this spectacular rendition.
July 23, 2006
Romantic `theatre on ice’ warms mid-winter spirits
Sunday Star Times, New Zealand

by Ann Hunt

ALL THOSE balletomanes out there can eat their pointe shoes. This is a fantastic production. Beautifully performed, produced and hugely enjoyable, it is great family entertainment that is guaranteed to lift the gloomiest of mid-winter spirits.Artistic director/choreographer Tony Mercer has aptly described it as theatre on ice. A mix of ballet, ice show and even circus, he sets his production in the Romanov period of Russian history, the early 1900s. This is reflected in the exquisite costume designs of Albina Gabueva and the stunning, romantic sets of Eamon D’Arcy.

Faithful in spirit to many of the ballet’s traditions, he has added innovative touches that well suit this spectacular production. Of all the ballets to produce on ice, Swan Lake must surely be the most appropriate. The ice itself is such a magical asset, which beautifully aids the illusion of flight and draws the audience into the story.

The evil magician, Rothbart, bewitches Princess Odette. She is condemned to be a swan by day and can take human form only at night. True love alone can break the curse. Traditionally, the ballet ends tragically. Here, the ending is a happy one, with a modern and surprisingly moving twist.

Apart from the occasional corny lift and Rothbart’s smoking clunker, Mercer rarely puts a foot wrong. His choreography cleverly integrates aerial sequences and even pointe work, with daring and beautiful ice dance.

The audience is held from the opening scene in the palace courtyard, with its lovely muted hues, the skaters whirling through falling snowflakes, to the final dramatic lakeside denouement – Odette walking forward throwing a handful of swan feathers into the air – the curse forever broken.

The special effects are spectacular and surprising: the magical first glimpse of the swan maidens rising out of the lake like Venus; incredibly skilful skating stilt walkers, like skeletal black crows; fluorescently costumed aerialists and, best of all, Rothbart surrounded by a flaming circle of fire.

The company of 26 Olympic, world, European and national championship skaters are superb. Olga Sharutenko is softly beautiful and vulnerable as Odette and a wonderful contrast to the sleekly sly and elegant Odile of Olena Pyatash. As Prince Siegfried, Vadim Yarkov is a fine skater and strong partner.

As Benno, Andrei Penkine is the sort of chap you’d want to slap, if he wasn’t so infuriatingly charming! And as Rothbart, Anton Klykov literally sets the stage on fire – a memorable portrayal in any medium.
July 14, 2006
Swan Lake on Ice
Theatre Review, New Zealand

by John Smythe

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.


Swan Lake on Ice a stunning show
Manuwatu Standard, New Zealand


Two years ago, the Russian Imperial Ice Stars won our hearts with a spectacular performance of Sleeping Beauty on Ice. This year, they have returned with an adaptation of another of Tchaikovsky’s ballets – Swan Lake.This was an excellent choice for a company of ice skaters, and last night’s audience was enthralled throughout the evening with a production that was even more spectacular than that of two years ago, as the composer’s gloriously romantic score provided the perfect accompaniment for this talented company.

The awards won by individual skaters – as listed in the programme – is most impressive. And all the skaters’ skills were demonstrated during the performance, with impressive elegance and grace. Indeed, the beauty of their work never ceased to amaze.

Director Tony Mercer has based his production firmly in the classic choreography of Swan Lake. But he has beautifully complemented this with the breathtaking leaps and spectacular lifts that we have come to expect from performers on ice.

This glorious artistry has been superbly matched by the design elements of the production. The sets and costumes brought a magnificent evocation of imperial Russia or mystical forest lakes to the stage. And if all this wasn’t enough, several of the sequences included spectacular aerial sequences, bathed in blue light. These created astounding stage magic that completely entranced the audience.

Swan Lake on Ice is undoubtedly a glorious feast for eye and ear and truly wonderful to behold, live, in the theatre in a performance characterised by brilliant artistry and absolute excellence.


Dazzle and glitter in Swan Lake On Ice
Dominion Post, New Zealand

by Jenny Stevenson

THE virtuosic art of ice dancing is something we see very little of in New Zealand – it has its own artistry and technique and there is very little to be gained from comparing it with the art of classical ballet. This production transforms the ballet Swan Lake and even Tchaikovsky’s score – using the characters from the much-loved classic but vesting them with a different dynamic.Wisely, there is little attempt made to reproduce the balletic choreography for the ice-skaters. In any event, the muscularity of the form precludes this. Instead, director-choreographer Tony Mercer has enhanced the gliding, spinning and incredible lifts of ice dancing with theatrical and dramatic effects that raise them to another dimension than the more technical displays of international sporting competition.

The lead artists are secure in their characterisations and the romantic storyline of good overcoming evil gives substance to the whole. Clearly, however, the men have a much greater part to play in this production than is the case in the ballet. Anton Klykov, who plays the part of the villain Rothbart – a sort of punk-mobster – shows off a formidable technique and dances with a vibrant energy.

Prince Siegfried, danced by Vadim Yarkov and Benno his friend, performed by an irrepressible Andrei Penkine, have a strong presence throughout, dancing with a great deal of style. But it is the strength of all the men, including the hard-working corps holding the women aloft – sometimes two or three at one time – that make this show so extraordinary.

Odette, played by Olga Sharutenko as a much more feisty swan maiden than is normally the case in the ballet, has a pure line that is shown off in the beautiful flying sequences of the big, romantic pas-de-deux. The swan maidens do beautiful sequence-skating to surround and support their queen. Odile, danced by Olena Pyatash with a strong technique, is not the arch-villainess that she is in the ballet. The corps all have a chance to show off individually and reprise their particular tricks in the encore.

This is a production of colour, dazzling costumes and many theatrical surprises, superbly performed. Not for the ballet purist, but definitely a good evening’s entertainment.


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