My Very Long And Unfocused Swan Lake Review

My little program thing

My little program thing

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to watch the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake “live” (broadcast in theaters), which I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while.  It was an interesting experience, to say the least: some great dancing, some accidents, some unfortunate costume decisions.  I had a great time though, and have not shut up about it since!

The day prior to the show, I did a little detective work, and found out from the Bolshoi Ballet’s website that Svetlana Zakharova was going to be dancing Odette/Odile.  Now, I know not everyone is in agreement, but I think Zakharova is amazing! I love those ridiculously high extensions, her flexibility, her feet. On youtube I’ve seen her dance Swan Lake with Roberto Bolle (who is distractingly good-looking – he looks like a stereotypical  cartoon handsome prince!) and it was great, so it made me look forward to the performance even more.

We arrived at the theater, got our tickets, and went to go have a seat at about 10 minutes prior to the posted start time.  The performance hadn’t started, but they were showing backstage footage of the dancers rehearsing as a lady (I think Katya Novikova) gave the audience a bit of background about the ballet. At this point Boyfriend remarked “I don’t like the Jester’s outfit,” which I thought was a rather odd thing to hear from a guy with literally no fashion sense. Of course, I got to feel stupid later when I realized why he had brought it up (stay tuned!).  I really enjoyed seeing the dancers rehearse a little bit, practicing their jumps and multiple pirouettes. On the other hand, Boyfriend didn’t want to look, saying that watching the rehearsing would “Ruin the magic.”  LOL, silly boy! Then they cut to the orchestra pit and the music started.  The surround sound of the theater is a definite improvement over my tiny iPad speaker, though I can’t even imagine how awesome it must sound truly live. I was so excited I had to reming myself to breathe a couple times.

When watching Swan Lake, one of the part I enjoy is the Jester/Fool, who in this case was danced by Igor Tsvirko.  He hit the stage and suddenly, I understood what Boyfriend had meant earlier.  In my opinion, whoever is in change of costumes made a bad call on his outfit. Specifically, the red and black tights (red on his right leg, black on his left), which made it all near impossible to see his legs up in the air.  While watching male dancers I especially enjoy watching them do those center-split-jumps – well, all jumps, really – and during this performance it just wasn’t happening. The backdrop scenery was too close of a color match to his dark tights. (And this really sucked, because the only way I even got Boyfriend to watch ballet is the promise of lots of jumps and leaps.  At least originally, I think he’s starting to like it For Reals.) It was still obvious that he’s a good dancer though, it just would have been more visible if he’d been wearing white tights. Luckily when he did some turns that were really cool (wish I knew the names of them) with his leg out to the side his red-tighted leg was his working leg and was visible.

Overall, it was a good first scene. The party scene soloists were all very good dancers, with the Fool not stealing the show as I think has happened in other versions of Swan Lake I’ve seen.  At some point I realized that I have the music to this ballet somewhat memorized, as one dance ended I was anticipating the next.  I love how the little solo dances get progressively harder, or at least more jumpy, which to me means harder.

This ballet was in 2 acts, so immediately after the party scene the Prince (danced by Denis Rodkin) takes off on his own (in other words, this was still act 1). Rothbart (danced by Artemy Belyakov), or The Evil Genius as he was known in this production (seriously) appeared and he was so dramatic.  It was great, I loved the part when he was, like, controlling the Prince, leading him to find the swans.  I really loved the way the two dancers were almost doing the same movements, it really conveyed the whole “controlling him” thing.  This is one of my favorite scenes for sure.

So, the Prince finds the lake, and there a few swans that do a little dance. Then comes the scene where the corps de ballet swans come out, single file, go across the stage, and line up in rows on either side of the stage.  They were almost in formation,  when suddenly one of the dancers slipped and fell! I was shocked! I’vd never seen a performance during which someone fell. I’m sure it happens (obviously, as it did) but since I hadn’t seen it I just hadn’t imagined that it could.  My first thought after ‘WTF!’ was ‘Oh good, it happened when they were almost in place,’ but for the rest of the performance every time the corps was ballet-running I was so stressed  out that if someone slipped the rest of the dancers were going to trample her or trip over her.  Seriously, it’s like if someone had to fall, if it happened when everyone was almost in place it was the safest time possible. It sucks that it happened at all though, maybe the stage was slippery? It was still act 1, so it hadn’t been cleaned during intermission (assuming that they even clean the stage during intermission, maybe I’m wrong here…).

The dance of the 4 Little Swans, another favorite of Boyfriend and I, was performed well.  I love seeing them do their echappes especially, it’s my favorite part of the pas de quatre, but the pas de chats are nice too. The dancers were roughly the same height and were in unison. The dance of the 3 swans, however, seemed off. The dancer to the farthest right (my left, while looking on) seemed as though she was behind the other 2 in timing, and her movements seemed a bit more exaggerated than the other two, her plies a bit deeper, her arms just slightly slower.  Who knows, maybe it’s on purpose, part of the choreography.  But honestly, I was a bit worried that someone was going to fall (again)…

Intermission was long, Artemy Belyakov (Evil Genius/Rothbart) was interviewed and I thought that besides his dramatic stage presence he looked pretty hot in his stage makeup.  Yeah, I’m so not reviewing this on technical things that matter, LOL.

Act 2, the party.  Recognized some of the soloists from the first act’s party.  They danced well, the prince danced well, the jester danced well, and then Odile and Evil Genius appear – with an entourage! They brought 6 black swans with them, which was different.  I may have seen a version with multiple black swans before, but it’s not the “norm”.  The black swans made their appearance again near the end of act 2 when the Prince rushes back to the lake after realizing he picked the wrong swan-girl.

Let’s see, Svetlana Zakharova was awesome.  Loved the White Swan pas de deux (like when the Prince twirls her on one foot, I love how her working foot is doing little tiny beats or something the whole time), as well as the little solo near the end of the scene (the kind of jumpy one).  While I thought she was great as Odette, I enjoyed her Odile even more.  She seemed older as Odile, stronger, definitely more use of her ultra-high extensions, and sort of faster, “flashier” movements. Love seeing her pointed feet up in the sky above her head when her legs are extended.  And then, when it was time for the fouettes, I thought it was cool how she did actual fouettes instead of mixing them up with triple pirouettes and stuff as I’ve seen done in other versions. She did 29, if I was counting correctly.  Actually, before the full-blown fouettes in a row part she did a short fouette-pirouette combo that looked super cool but I was afraid that that was going to be it. It wasn’t.

The Prince was great as well, especially in act 2. Well, no, I liked him during the scene by the lake with Rothbart, and the PDD, but in act 2 he really outdid himself.  Those flying leaps around the stage! I love how right before it’s revealed that he picked the wrong swan-girl he just seems so happy! Good acting.

I was also glad that this wasn’t a happy ending version in which Rothbard is defeated and everyone lives happily ever after. Odette gets swallowed up by the 6 black swan dancers in the back of the stage area behind a dark screen as the prince falls to the floor and sobs. Loved it, so much drama!

During the introduction, I think I heard something about this version taking place in the Prince’s head, and how Rothbart/Evil Genius is the “dark side” of the Prince.  Ok, I guess…

It was a good performance, though, as I mentioned earlier, I was worried about someone else falling.  Now I just keep wondering, how often does this happen? Came home, did an internet search and was unable to turn up much on the subject. The closest thing I found was advice on what to do if you fall during a competition (Get Up and Keep Going Unless It Hurts), but nothing about pros. Can’t wait to ask Teacher about this next time I see her…

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2 thoughts on “My Very Long And Unfocused Swan Lake Review

  1. Paulina

    I am wondering if Swan’s Lake is not always about the dark and the light side of the human soul. Odile/Odette, the prince and Rothbart. Also, I always thought Odile the more interesting character, stronger, more focused (if evil), and yes, she seems to be older and more experienced (at least in the versions of Swan’s Lake I have watched). But that’s just my opinion, based on complete ignorance.

    Reply
    1. kit Post author

      That makes a lot of sense, about it being about the dark and light side of the soul. Makes me look at the scene where the Prince is led by Rothbard to the lake in a new way, as man being led by his dark side to uncharted territory. And it’s weird, since then Rothbard (the dark side of the Prince), “creates” Odile (the dark side of Odette). So in a way the dark side of the Prince leads to the dark side of Odette. Quite interesting, and almost philosophical…

      Reply

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