Swan Lake, American Ballet Theater, March 2009

There were lots of things to praise in this performance of Swan lake, but others to criticise. First the good things: Irina Dvorovenko was a lovely Odette-Odile, alternating well between a sublime white swan, and her seductive black counterpart in Act III. The corps de ballet were superb, particularly in the white acts, forming a very powerful presence at the end when they defeat von Rothbart. Indeed this performance warmed up as the evening progressed, and really took off with the black swan’s first solo. Her partner, Maxim Beloserkovsky as Prince Siegfried, danced with technical mastery and good control, but little musicality, which made him far less interesting than her.

As to the rest of the cast, the pas-de-trois in Act I was very well danced by Sarah Lane, Isabella Boyston and Daniil Simkin, while von Rothbart was strongly portrayed at the party scene by Gennadi Saveliev, and by Isaac Stappas in the white acts. The dual portrayal of von Rothbart was an interesting aspect of this production, and in a prologue during the overture they both appeared, along with Siegfried and Odette-Odile, dimly lit behind a front-drop. The lighting design by Duane Schuler was very effective here, but in the white scenes the company didn’t manage to install the lights correctly, for several swans, including one solo, were left in the dark. The sets and costumes by Zack Brown work extremely well, giving plenty of colour to Act III and plenty of space for dancing. I only object to the change of costume for Siegfried in Act III where he suddenly reappears in a black doublet, with the black swan, from off-stage. We have not seen her before, though she should be introduced by von Rothbart when he enters the party, rather than appearing as if she has known Siegfried all along and been having an illicit affair off-stage.

But the most disappointing thing about this production is Kevin McKenzie’s choreography in Act I, which sometimes bears little relationship to the music. Insipid and unimaginative steps to quiet passages are simply continued without change as the music roars into top gear. The music itself was very well performed by the orchestra of the English National Opera under the baton of Charles Barker, who showed a fine sensitivity to the dancers.

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