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Hattie Lloyd 02/02/24

The Acrobatic Swan Lake

The Xi’an Acrobatic Troupe has been training for an average of 20 years – some since the age of 5 – to bring this ambitious production to life.

It’s fair to say they’ve jumped through a lot of hoops.

But it seems like it was totally worth it – because this show fusing traditional Chinese acrobatic arts with Western classical ballet has been hailed by critics and audience members alike as (to paraphrase slightly) balls-to-the-walls spectacular.

The show has toured to packed-out theatres around the world for more than a decade, and it returns to London this summer for a limited 10-day run at Sadler’s Wells. Interspersing scenes of balletic choreography with contortionist frogs, Chinese poles and unicycle duets, the show is crammed with unbelievable feats of strength, balance and dexterity. The Times described a previous production as both “eye-watering” and “jaw-dropping”. Basically, it sounds like your face will be working almost as hard as the performers.

acrobatic swan lake

If you’re hoping for a fully traditional Swan Lake that stays true to the original storyline, this isn’t it (you might want to book for this year’s production at the Royal Opera House instead). The point of The Acrobatic Swan Lake is to artfully pluck inspiration from various scenes, and stitch it all together to create something dazzling and new. Tchaikovsky’s dramatic score is shuffled and remixed; so is the plot. It definitely edges into slightly cheesy territory at points. But boy, will you be entertained.

You’ll see the chorus of swans dancing on roller skates; spinning across the stage in ‘wheels of death’; and yes – these birds do actually fly. The evil wizard has, for some reason, minions on unicycles. And of course, there’s the award-winning duet that inspired the whole show: “Oriental Swan Ballet On Top of Head”, in which Odette (played by Wu Zhengdan) strikes an elegant arabesque while balancing on top of the Prince (played by her real-life husband, Wei Baohua). En pointe. It’s a feat that only they can perform, having practised it for ten hours a day over nine months.

But just look at them now: she can do it standing on his head.


NOTE: The Acrobatic Swan Lake runs at Sadler’s Wells from 21st – 29th June. Tickets start at £15 – you can book, and watch the trailer, HERE.

The Acrobatic Swan Lake | Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TN

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The Acrobatic Swan Lake

Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, Islington, EC1R 4TN