The Moscow Festival Ballet presented the ballet, “Swan Lake,” at Kean University’s Wilkins Theatre on Saturday, March 15. Music was by Peter Tchaikovsky, with choreography credited to Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.
This production of the beloved ballet consisted of four acts: The Garden of Prince Siegfried’s Castle; A Lakeside; The Great Hall of Siegfried’s Castle; and The Lakeside. The same bucolic lakeside scrim was used as the backdrop for all four acts. Music was recorded and played through speakers.
The program listed no one in their roles. A short message stating the names of the night’s performers was made before the performance, but much too fast to note any of them. Regrettably, the roles and the performances will be discussed without attribution.
This “Swan Lake” followed the basic plot of most other productions of “Swan Lake,” but with a few interesting, significant, and important changes from what we have become accustomed to seeing. Instead of Prince Siegfried’s friend, we had a Jester, who appeared in full Harlequin-like costume, dancing in the castle garden and at the ball. He was perhaps the best male dancer in the company, evidenced by his virtuosic leaps, spins, and complicated turns at many points in the work. He was the artist who garnered the most applause from the audience by far. One could wonder why he wasn’t cast as the Prince. The only explanation could be that he was not skillful as a partner to the ballerina, shining more brightly in his soloist role.
The man cast as Prince Siegfried bore a striking resemblance to the young Lorenzo Lamas. Although he had the princely looks, he was an acting cipher, and did not possess outstanding style, grace or dancing virtuosity. At one point, the Rothbart (the evil sorcerer who cursed the maidens into being swans) performed a Grigorivich Lift, the difficult overhead lift named after its creator, rather than it being performed by the Prince. The Rothbart for this performance danced well. He had none of the ridiculous feathers some other companies insist upon. He wore a dark puce costume. Some productions cast him as an owl-man, or some non-specified bird of prey. Differing from the norm, this version of the ballet had Rothbart shadow- partnering Siegfried at key points in the drama, indicating through dance an attempt on the sorcerer’s part to meld with and possess the Prince’s character.
Interestingly, the role of Odette, the good maiden cursed to live as a swan, and Odile, Rothbart’s evil seductress illusion created to confuse and cheat Prince Siegfried, were danced by two different women. In modern times, we have become accustomed to both roles being danced by the same ballerina, so this was an interesting divergence from the usual. This night’s Odette looked splendid and moved with grace, style, emotion and solid technique. The Odile was perhaps less successful in her bravura role as seductress, but danced well nonetheless.
The thrilling part of the performance was the beautiful work by the swan chorus. They were uniformly excellent dancing their difficult choreography. They were outstanding in that each ballerina had a facial expression and they remained in character, either while still or while dancing. It was an exceptional feat rarely seen and so well done. Bravo, swans!
For further concerts and performances at Kean University, visit www.keanstage.com.