Luke Jennings – The Observer
From the moment of his first entrance, it’s Ball’s show. As well as being an assured technician, he’s a dance actor of real charisma. As the Swan, he’s dangerous and commanding, all sinew and hissing aggression; and as the Stranger he’s as disdainful as he is sexually predatory, cutting a ruthless swath through the female courtiers before finally, to the prince’s excruciating distress, battening vampirically on to the Queen.
To ballet regulars, Ball’s performance will come as no surprise. Fast-tracked by the Royal Ballet, he has made promising inroads into roles such as Albrecht (in Giselle), Crown Prince Rudolf (in Mayerling), and Romeo. But here he really cuts loose, revelling in the physical and dramatic nuances of the role, and in the extremes of the characters he portrays. It leads one to wonder whether classical ballet, and the Royal’s increasingly abstract repertoire, is a radical enough canvas for his talents.
Matthew Bourne approached me, but I think I put it out there, that this was something I was hungry to do. The Swan is such an iconic role for male dancers, but I never thought it would happen this soon. You don’t miss an opportunity like this.
Anna Winter – The Stage
Newly-minted Royal Ballet principal Matthew Ball triumphs in the dual role of the Swan and the Stranger, the latter an irresistibly pheromonal figure in leather trousers who whips up sexual disruption in Act II. As the former, Ball’s muscular intensity and creaturely otherness is combined with a fine haze of classicism, an easeful elevation that sets him apart from his feral flock.
Zoë Anderson – The Independent
For this revival, The Royal Ballet’s Matthew Ball makes guest appearances as the Swan. He’s a wild thing, unpredictable and alien, with fluid, sensuous upper body movements and a sense of the swan’s heft and dangerous power. Yet there’s also a sense of vulnerability in his duets with Liam Mower’s Prince, wonder and discovery on both sides. And as the Stranger – Bourne’s equivalent to the ballet’s Black Swan – Ball is teasing and predatory, a gatecrasher whose upending of protocol thrills the Prince even as it torments him.
Hanna Weibye – The Arts Desk
Special mention goes to Matthew Ball, a Royal Ballet principal making his debut as the Swan/Stranger, who is lithe, sexy, tender and dangerous, particularly as Act III’s Stranger (the Odile role) sowing discord among the party-goers with his simmering bad-boy sex appeal and leather trousers. Liam Mower’s Prince (pictured above left) is a heart-rending lost boy, making the situation of this privileged prince a much more universal story of growing up and desperately wanting to stretch your wings beyond the iron confines of Mother and the nest.
Teresa Guerreiro – Culture Whisper
On press night Matthew Balls’ utterly compelling Swan was matched step for step, emotion for emotion by a remarkable Liam Mower as the Prince.
Ball’s and Mower’s central pas de deux in Act 2 is profoundly moving in the way the wildness of the bird is partly tamed and the despondency of the man gradually turns into uncontainable, glorious joy.
Both the looming menace of the swans and the attraction between man and swan come to full fruition in the ballet’s devastating finale.
Debra Craine – The Times
Matthew Ball, a Royal Ballet principal, led the opening-night cast. He exudes balletic grace (no surprise there) and feral magnetism as the Swan (the Odette figure) and a subtle (perhaps too subtle) sexuality as the predatory Stranger in black leather (the Odile one). Liam Mower is transfixing as the Prince — he’s a heartfelt actor and such a beautiful mover that I wish the Prince had more choreography to show him off. Together they ensured that the sucker punch of Bourne’s heartbreaking fourth act brought the house down.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.