BLOCKBUSTER Billy Elliot has piroutted ballet into the spotlight. The success of this heartwarming film about a boy who chooses dance over boxing lessons appears to have had an effect on the popularity of productions like Swan Lake, currently at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.

"We have seen an increase of 50 per cent in ticket sales over the last week or so," says Patrick Brookes of the Mayflower.

This classic tale, exquisitely performed by the English National Ballet, was appreciated by a mixed audience as dance virgins mingled with ballet buffs across the age spectrum.

Derek Deane's Swan Lake opened with the extravagantly-menacing performance from Robert Marshall as the evil sorcerer Rothbart - half bird, half man -who kidnaps the beautiful Princess Odette and condemns her to a life as a swan under his spell.

There followed scenes in the palace where preparations were under way for the birthday party of the handsome Prince Siegfried (Patrick Armand) and the arrival of the Queen who presents him with a crossbow as his gift.

The corps de ballet excited with their rousing numbers performed in magnificent costumes of shimmering gold and green autumnal hues.

Principal dancer was Monica Perego, in the duel roles of the Odette/Odile. Her featherlight elegance combined with incredible stamina was breathtaking.

The classic lakeside performances of the swans and cygnets were absorbing.

In the formal celebration of the prince's birthday again we were treated to an exhilarating display of national dances from the corps de ballet.

Principal dancers Patrick Armand and Monica Perego were moving in their interpretation of the lovers Prince Seigfried and Princess Odette as the misunderstandings and machinations of the story unfolded to culminate in the duo forever united. I'm sure there was not a dry eye in the house.

Swan Lake runs at the Mayflower until Sunday. Ring the box office on 023 8071 1811.