From my early toddler years, my childhood was defined by a weekly affiliation with pink ballet slippers and a diverse collection of colored leotards. Plié, relevé, tendu, pas de bourrée, rinse, repeat. At the end of each school year, my dance school would hold an annual ballet, which was always exciting for younger students as we were able to observe the extremely talented older dancers.
With their extensive training and immense grace, these dancers were simply wonderful, even in rehearsals, as they seemed to effortlessly twirl around the stage. Enhanced by colorful costumes and a full set, their performances were often downright magical, seemingly out of a fairy tale.
While waiting for the State Ballet Theater of Russia’s performance of Swan Lake at Fox Theater to begin last Sunday, I felt myself teeming with excitement in anticipation to be immersed in the enchanting world of ballet once more. As soon as the curtains rose, the magic immediately began.
The Swan Lake ballet tells the story of Siegfried, a prince with a penchant for socializing, partying and a disregard for his royal duties, much to his mother’s chagrin. After the queen declares that Siegfried must choose a wife at the ball the next evening, the prince becomes unhappy that he would be unable to marry for love. He then goes out to hunt with his best friend to cheer up. During the hunt, he encounters a group of swans, who magically turn into beautiful maidens in the nighttime, including Odette, the Swan princess. Odette and her companions are cast under a spell by the evil Von Rothbart, a powerful sorcere. The curse can only be broken if one who has never loved before swears to love Odette forever.
Although my heart fluttered when the curtains rose, the enchanting experience I was expecting was oddly dampened by the noticeably disunited and sloppy steps by the supporting cast who opened the show. The group was able to dance in unison once again a few minutes later, but seeing how this was the audience’s first look at the company, it was a bit jarring. Fortunately for the State Ballet Theater of Russia, the rest of the show featured a clean, graceful performance with iconic choreography, reinstating the magical feeling I had as the curtains were rising.
Not surprisingly, the ballerina who played Odette was exquisite in her performance. Beyond her clean technique, her refined body language easily conveyed a range of emotions from a shy swan afraid of the prince to one full of despair over his mistake. Many of the supporting dancers, although perhaps not as defined with her emotions, were similarly precise.
Although the dancer in the role of the prince was very good, perhaps the best male principal, or even in the whole production, was Von Rothbart. His powerful stage presence drew eyes to him no matter who else was on stage.
What was particularly disappointing to me, however, was that Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score was not performed live. Although it was noted in a comment to the News-Sentinel by director Nikolay Anokhin that a full live orchestra “could not produce the correct sound needed for the ballet,” live music would have completely solidified the overall experience, adding another immersing dimension to the ballet.
Overall, this ballet was able to render me into my younger, imaginative self, filled with awe for the immense grace and beauty of all the professional dancers. Hopefully, the ballet was able to similarly impact all the young dancers in the audience.
Our Take: 4/5