celine gittens

Jonathan Higgins on piano, Antonio Novais on cello and Céline Gittens as The Swan

The Swan

Céline Gittens

Birmingham Royal Ballet


We live in dark, worrying times yet there are still moments of beauty and the shining light of hope and today Birmingham Royal Ballet’s principal ballerina Céline Gittens provided such a moment with a superb performance of Camille Saint-Saëns's The Swan from The Carnival of the Animals.

With the wonders of technology she danced not on the vast expanse of the now dark  Birmingham Hippodrome stage but in her own living room accompanied, in their own homes by Royal Ballet Sinfonia principal pianist Jonathan Higgins and cellist Antonio Novais.

With a screen split in three it is a rare chance to see ballerina, pianist and cellist in close up and with it a chance to see the brilliant technique and footwork of Gittens, something you don’t normally see in that sort of detail even sitting in the posh seats at the Hippodrome.

The dance is not an expansive piece needing a huge space, even so Gittens did remarkably well to perform in the corner of her living room in a stage set between a potted plant and piano.

It is a dance full of emotion reflecting the movement of a an injured swan and was originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for the legendary Anna Pavlova in 1905. She went on to perform The Dying Swan, as it became known, more than 4,000 times.

Here BRB’s new director, Carlos Acosta has changed the ending from Fokine’s emotive dance of the wounded and dying swan to one of a new life, a new beginning. He said: “I have purposely changed the end so this is a dance about life, about hope.”

The cameraman, incidentally, was her husband and fellow BRB dancer, Kit Holder and thanks to them, Jonathan Higgins and Antonio Novais for creating something quite beautiful to brighten these difficult times.

The video of The Swan is available on BBC Arts with a whole range of other BBC features or visit BRB’s site for a whole range of videos including Royal Ballet Sinfonia leader Robert Gibbs playing Bach's Chacona in D minor, trombone and contrabassoon solos, videos of past dance performances and rehearsals and plenty to while away a few minutes or more at any time.

Roger Clarke


Index page BRB Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre