Swan Lake

January 10, 2017 at 2:52 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I went to see the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s touring production of Swan Lake, at the St James Theatre, in Wellington, last night. I took the opportunity to watch a traditional Russian staging of this iconic ballet.

The performance suffered a little bit from two things: no orchestra; and a small stage. Being a touring company, the St Peterburg Ballet tend to perform to recorded music – as was the case last night. By international standards, the St James has a small stage. While the Company must be very use to adjusting its choreography for a variety of stages, the smaller stage meant that some of the choreography looked a bit cramped; some of the larger swan formations were slightly compromised.

The lack of an orchestra meant that the ballet proceeded at a set rate. The was no conductor to adjust the pace to fit in with the audience’s clapping or the dancers’s energy.

The undoubted star of the show is Irina Kolesnikova; she is lyrical as Odette and fierce as Odile. The ballet comes to life in Act III, when she dances Odile – Rothbart’s daughter – at the ball. Dimitri Akulmin is Siegfried – the feckless prince. Akulmin’ Siefried is an adequate foil for Odile and suitor for Odette. But the duo only connected in the scene when Kolesinkova does her amazing 30+ fouettes.

Generally, the production was tidy, if a little clinical. The swan formations were most impressive: large, precise, and unified (in time and moving as one). The dance of the signets was the most staccato that I have ever seen – somehow each step was separate from the next – yet faster than I have seen before too; of course, the four dancers (Valeriya Andropova, Arisa Hashimoto, Olga Naumova, Anastasia Chaya) were wonderfully synchronised.

Two other dancers stood out: Seiyu Ogasawara and Saadi Imankulov; Ogasawara as the Jester, was an energetic, with all sorts of leaps and bounds; and Imankulov as the male member of the pas de trois in Act I, had height in his jumps, and control in his vertical 720s.

Being the Russian version, not only is there a jester – who replaces the Siegfried’s companion in western versions – but there is a happy ending! How happy? go see the ballet.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Swan Lake (RNZB: 2013)

July 27, 2013 at 7:23 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Last weekend I went to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2013 production of Swan Lake. Warning: plot revealed.

Main cast:

  • Odette/Odile: Gillian Murphy
  • Siefried: Karel Cruz
  • Jester: Rory Fairweather-Neylan
  • Rothbart: Paul Mathews

Rory Fairweather-Neylan almost steals the show. I have always liked version(s) that include the Jester. The role is technically demanding and artistically demanding – he does well. The <Jester’s choreography acts as an overture for Siefried’s choreography.

Karel Cruz is very eye catching – he must be one of the tallest ‘leading men’ in the ballet world. His superb technique and height give him considerable stage presence; at times, the St James stage seems too small. The elevation he achieves with his jumps; the control in his pirouettes; and the strength in his lifts are just amazing.

Ms Murphy is wonderful. Her fouettes like the rest of her technical repertoire were complete. I made a conscious effort not to count them in Act III, choosing instead to focus on the wonderful artistry and mime.

Siefried and Odette (Cruz and Murphy) achieve a lyrical romantic partnering in Act II. The lyrical pas de deux creates such a sense that they are destined to be together, that the relatively energetic dance of the cygnets (ably dance by Katherine Grange, Adrianna Harper, Bronte Kelly, and Tonia Looker) seems a little out of place.

This version gave Rothbart a much expanded role, compared to other versions. Rothbart does much more than merely produce Odile (disguised as Odette) at the ball. Paul Mathews must manipulate the swans – particularly Odette through his black magic; and has a major showdown with Siefried in Act IV.

I like the happy ending: the lovers don’t die – they are together ! There is also a very touching moment when the swans are freed from their enthrallment.

The structure of the ballet is very clever, and one piece of choreography leads to the next. One example of this is the use of the Jester to provide an introduction to Siefried’s choreography – the Jester’s choreography is a comic version of the latter. Another example, is the use of big swans to bridge the visual gap between the cygnets and the traditionally small swans at the front of the bevy, and the larger and grander Odette, who is effectively their queen. Abigail Boyle and Antonia Hewitt nicely portray two ‘senior’ swans.

Sir Jon Trimmer, once again played the part of WolfGang the Prince’s tutor. He danced this role 17 years ago.

The music is provided by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The costumes were bright, intricate and detailed; very fitting a production that marks the Company’s 60th Anniversary. There appeared to be many past members in the audience that night.

A must see.

Sleeping Beauty (RNZB 2011)

October 30, 2011 at 7:58 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I went to the second night of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s new production of Sleeping Beauty.

This is a new production, and in his first full-length choreographic work, Craig Horsman has tweaked and shortened the Russian version a little bit. The traditional second and thirds Acts have been combined into one. It becomes clear why the Black Fairy – Carabosse – was not invited: the Chancellor – Catalabutte – deliberately ripped up the invitation. Another innovation was the use of a shadow show to portray the birth of Princess Aurora. And for good measure the Chancellor is a cat ! – as his love interest; this cleverly elevates the Puss in Boots and White Cat characters from the original Ivan Vsevolozhsky story.

The feline antics of Catalabutte (danced by Shannon Dawson) and Lady Florine (danced by Lucy Balfour) added some lighter touches to what is otherwise a courtly ballet.

Being a new production the costumes and set were wonderfully detailed. The mortals got richly detailed customs and the fairies light etherial outfits.

The ‘good’ fairies are pretty much as you would expect to find them: simple chiffon tutus in light colours. Even the Lilac Fairy has a simple arrangement. I thought that she should have counterpointed the Black Fairy in a more visual way.

I think the best costume and character was the Black Fairy – Carabosse – danced by Maree White. She did a fantastic job; the choreography, personalisation, and costume seem to borrow heavily from von Rothbart in Swan Lake. The Black Fairy is dressed in black, looking a little bit like Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux with a massive black cape; she is the only fairy to have a head piece, but no wings. She has her own retinue of hench-goblins to boot. She even turns into a dragon – curtesy of Weta Workshop – when she fights Prince Desire.

I wish the fight between the Prince and Carabosse was a bit longer, so that the drama and tension cab build. But it was a nice deviation from the standard ‘cutting through the vines’ when it came time for the Prince to ‘rescue’ the Princess.

I was also wish that the four princes, from whom Aurora was originally to select a husband, had solos of their own.

I was disappointed that the Stella Abrera and Sergio Torrado were not in the principal roles. Instead, the cast was ably lead by Abigail Boyle and Qi Huan. Qi Huan is most princely – with well controlled jumps, leaps and turns. Abigail Boyle handles her technically demanding role well. The evergreen Sir John Trimmer plays the King. The dancing of Adriana Harper and Medhi Angot as the Bluebirds was wonderful.

While the story is relatively simple, I found the beautiful produced programme very useful for filling in some of the ‘gaps’. I though the wedding could have more visual ‘handrails’. [It certainly pays to read up on the story.]

The cast got a resounding ovation at the final curtain.

Swan Lake (Graeme Murphy)

September 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Warning: Plot elements revealed.

I found this DVD in the library the other day, got it out and took it home. To my surprise it was a very different take on Swan Lake. For a while it looked there would be no swans at all!

Graeme Murphy has done away with the whole birthday and forrest plot devices, and jumps straight to the wedding of Odette and Prince Siegfried – yes wedding. There is no Odile, her role is effectively taken by a reformatted Rothbart – now a baroness! The wedding feast starting off well, but Siegfried encounters the Baroness, a former lover, now married with children, and their feelings for each other are revived – most unfortunate. From then on, to misquote a personality from the last century, “there were three in the marriage.”

Watching this version of Swan Lake it is impossible not to draw comparisons with the situation that Charles, Diana, and Carmilla found themselves in last century.

Murphy’s choreography is excellent and in places very innovative: the pirouettes and fouettes used in the original to denote joy and happiness, at the engagement party, are repurposed to denote confusion and dismay at the wedding. What Odette does with her weeding dress train is very well thought out and executed. Swans do eventually appear, but in a dream / fantasy sequence. For traditionalist, the cygnets are there !

The dancing is all classical technique and many of the dance sequences in the original are there – just in a different order to fit into the ‘new’ story. Murphy has firmly put the story in a modern setting. But without loosing the essential tragedy of the original, nor loosing the uplifting power of Tchaikovsky’s music.

The costumes are rich and complement the choreography.

Madeleine Eastoe, as Odette; Danielle Rowe, as Baroness von Rothbart; and Robert Curran, as Prince Siegfried all give superb performances – both from a dance perspective and an acting perspective. The choreography calls on Curran to do some very innovative lifts and holds.

The DVD, produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is from a life performance by the Australian Ballet in 2008 at the Sydney Opera House.

Black Swan

February 24, 2011 at 4:53 am | Posted in Film Review | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I went to see Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan the other week and found it intense.

This is not a ballet movie. It starts out like most ballet movie, with some very nice dancing and the obligatory pointe shoe scene. But, the movie is about one woman’s descent into madness. Had I know this before hand I think I would not have gone – I prefer less depressing and shocking subjects and story lines. The film and Natalie Portman do an excellent job of portraying a ballerina’s mental breakdown during a production of Swan Lake. Ballet and the Swan Lake story merely provide the backdrop.

Natalie Portman reportly spent six months preparing for the role by taking daily ballet lessons. She appears to have done much of her own dance work, and most certainly helped her fit into the part of Nina Sayers – a dancer chosen to play the parts of Odette/Odile in her company’s new production of Swan Lake.

The Film turns the focus of Swan Lake on its head, usually Swan Lake is decribed in terms of the Prince. Instead, the story revolves around the Odette/Odile – white/black swan – perspective. In the film, the artistic director is confident that Nina can portray the Odette, but is not sure that she can portray the darker Odile.

It is the artistic director pushing Nina to access something within herself that is outside her normal controlled emotions that drives Nina slowly mad.

The Film is so well done, that in the last third, I was not sure what was real and was was Nina’s projected self-delusions. The audience not so much sees Nina’s descent into madness, but accompanies her. It got a bit much for me at times.

If you like intense pyschological films this is for you.

The film is an R16, and there are some graphic scenes between Nina and another ballerina. I wondered and still wonder if they were strictly necessary. It is certainly not a film youtake enthusiastic 10 year old ballet pupils to. Nina is shown throwing up, starving herself, and enduring the kind of workplace bullying from the artistic director (dramatically played by Vincent Cassel ) that in any other workplace would lead to court action.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.