Sheffield theatre's ballet shows darker depths of Swan Lake

One of ballet's most haunting love stories, Swan Lake, returns to Sheffield's Lyceum Theatre in a production by Northern Ballet.

Monday, 7th March 2016, 5:37 pm
Updated Monday, 7th March 2016, 5:46 pm
Martha Leebolt as Odilia in Swan Lake with Giuliano Contadini as Simon. Photo Emma Kauldhar

Choreographer and artistic director of the Leeds-based company, David Nixon, talks here about why he was inspired to give a more modern twist to the story of a young man and his doomed obsession with a swan/woman.

For you, what continues to be the appeal of Swan Lake?

My first Swan Lake to both see and perform in the lead role was Erik Bruhn’s version for the National Ballet of Canada.

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I loved it and being the last Siegfried to be totally prepared by Erik will always remain a priceless treasure.

Over the years, I danced in many versions and have seen countless others, all different, all searching for their personal voice and all continuing the history of this masterpiece in some new and fascinating way.

It is perhaps part of the magic of Swan Lake, this ongoing interest by choreographers to reinvent this iconic ballet and to find new meanings and adaptations within the original.

What were the important things you wanted to incorporate into your version for Northern Ballet?

The main aim of dramatic associate Patricia Doyle and I was to make a more contemporary story, whilst retaining the traditional elements.

It is a romantic tale and needed a time in history noted for this quality.

We settled upon the last days of the Belle Époque, a time of long lazy summers before the world changed.

The story also incorporates the dark nature of romantics, who live in the realm of imagination where the impossible is possible, even if only in the mind.

It is this characteristic of Anthony that is crucial to the realisation of the story.

I wanted to open up the emotions brewing under the surface of young people not yet sure of who they are or what they want.

We created a love triangle, young intimate friends who find one day that lying together on the grass inspires new feelings which ultimately transform their lives.

We also wanted to understand our main character’s connection to water and why it holds his ultimate destination.

The story therefore begins in childhood with the loss of a beloved brother in the lake and the agony and guilt that the survivor carries into the future.

The lake and the water become a mythical draw to our lead character, enticing him ever deeper into a dangerous world of dark imaginings.

n Swan Lake is at the Lyceum from March 15 to 19. Box office: or 0114 249 600.