The Russian National Ballet Theatre, Sleeping Beauty | Review based on performance at The State theatre, Sydney | Performances of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake are being toured nationally, visit www.russiannationalballettheatre.com.au

When the email arrived asking me to review Swan Lake, performed by the Russian National Ballet Theatre, I was excited. I’ve seen a lot of contemporary ballet, which I adore, but so far have not had the opportunity to enjoy a classic. Swan Lake, I thought, was a perfect introduction. Its firm place in popular culture means I already feel fairly familiar with it. An evil sorcerer turns a beautiful girl and her friends into swans, and a prince saves her with his undying love.

Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off, Funny Girl, Billy Elliot, The Muppet Show, The Simpsons and more have fed us images of the synchronised swans. Such iconic images, I wanted to see the real thing.

The Guest felt the same way.

The music began and we settled in. It was all as I’d imagined. Beautiful tutus, lithe dancers presenting aesthetically pleasing poses and plies and pirouettes, and outrageously dramatic make up and pantomime.

Not sure what the baby was doing there, though. And I couldn’t work out which of the blokes was the prince and which was the beautiful girl who was destined for featherdom. The evil sorcerer, however, was obvious. Dressed in black, with flaring red makeup and grizzled posture, he was definitely up to no good. But what was the deal with the massive splinter he pretended to put through his hand? What did that have to do with turning a girl into a swan?

A lightbulb appeared over seats H40 and H41.

She’s Sleeping Beauty.

Curtain up for interval. The Guest and I looked at each other and burst into laughter. We fished out our tickets and actually donned our reading glasses this time to confirm that we were, in fact, at Sleeping Beauty, the other ballet being performed in repertory.

I have a question for you: how did you feel, reading the first half of this review of Swan Lake under the title Sleeping Beauty? Were you scratching your head and feeling as though things were a little out of kilter? Did you keep re-reading paragraphs to try and work out what you’d missed? Well, that’s how we had felt throughout the first act.

Once we realised what had happened we were able to relax into the second act and immerse ourselves in the colourful performance.

I’m not sure I’ll become a devotee of classical ballet, but I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste. It certainly is a visual feast, and the company seemed to comprise consummate professionals. It felt, though, that they were constrained by the relatively small stage and I wondered at the selection of the State Theatre as venue.

But my favourite part of the night? Watching the budding little ballerinas in the audience at interval emulating the beautiful dancers they had just seen on stage. Priceless.