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Swan Lake leaps into 3D

St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre staged the first ever 3D live ballet, filmed using James Cameron’s ground-breaking technology as seen in Avatar, and Peter Colley pulled on his 3D glasses to check out the results.

3D has proved one of the major new money-spinners of recent years, enticing audiences back into cinemas with promises of a fresh experience.

Of course, the format has been around since the birth of cinema, but the next level of 3D arguably came with the release of James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009. It therefore seems only fitting that his company – Cameron Pace – be the ones to give the world’s first 3D ballet its third-dimension.

Filmed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersberg, the event was broadcast to 50 countries around the world.

Before the ballet began, we saw our first glimpse of 3D action with a visual tour around St. Petersberg. From buildings to rivers, everything was enhanced. And this dazzling depiction was a taste of things to come.

The scene cut to the Mariinsky Theatre, where we were acquainted with the various people participating in the evening’s event, including Russian actress and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova – who acted as the storyteller.

The footage briefly lost its synchronization during the interviews, but the impact of this fault was minimal.

Waiting for the performance to begin, the announcers at Mariinsky stated the prohibiting of photography, which felt obsolete considering the hazy screen effect without the 3D glasses.

The opening dances featured incredible dance cues, and it’s a credit to the Theatre’s multi-camera setup that the most intimate and vibrant moments were perfectly captured.

It took some time for the 3D to become prominent, or at least evident, but this could be interpreted as a positive sign that - despite the technical advancements - 3D did not distract from the main performances.

As the production continued, and the dances progressed to include greater numbers of more animated performers - almost leaping out from the confines of the stage - and it was through these synchronized dance cues that the 3D became more prominent.

Arguably, the highlight of the event – and the use of 3D – was during the first act, set by the lake. The scene depicted a night-time scene with the Swan Maidens and was mesmerizing, creating a visually-rewarding performance.

As the curtain went down, there was a collective feeling of being overwhelmed. Previous releases have shown that 3D is often best when depicting a spectacle, but in ballet the performances are the spectacle.

During the interval, Jonathan Phoenix of organiser Glass Slipper revealed there were more events lined up. “The more events, the more we can promote”, he said.

He also said that Swan Lake was an appropriate choice for the first live 3D ballet. “It is the ballet,” he added, citing the event as a good way to get people into the dance form.

Swan Lake 3D represents an extraordinary achievement for both cinema and ballet.

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