Mariinsky Ballet’s Swan Lake at BAM

SwanLake20150115-123Mariinsky Ballet
Swan Lake
Howard Gilman Opera House
January 21, 2015
All photos by Jack Vartoogian courtesy of BAM
Of all the ballets that I’ve ever seen, Swan Lake remains my favorite. Having the opportunity to see the Mariinsky Ballet (formerly the Kirov) perform it in Brooklyn was nothing less than a privilege.
This was a wonderful production from beginning to end. The technical excellence of the individual dancers was there, exactly matched by the precision of the company and the heart and soul brought to the lead roles by the principal dancers. The Mariinsky Orchestra, conducted by American born Gavriel Heine, combined with the acoustics of the old opera house, allowed me to hear voices and nuance in the music that I’d never heard before.

SwanLake20150115-334In the role of Prince Siegfried, Timur Askerov is somewhat reserved. We don’t see big displays of emotion or childishness from him, but we do feel Siegfried’s love for Odette expressed through his dancing. He is regal and dazzling. Without the use of any overblown gestures, he was especially dramatic in the moment that he pledged to marry Odette.
Vladislav Shumakov, in the role of the Joker, was a show stopper. He comes between the players at the party with good comic timing. He gets great height and hang time through a series of stunning and challenging jumps. Yana Selina, Nadezhda Batoeva, Filipp Stepin were notably lovely in the pas de trois. Andrei Yermakov made a dark and fascinating Rothbart, more creature than man. His commanding presence was menacing.

SwanLake20150115-323Yekaterina Kondaurova, who danced the dual roles of Odette and Odile, kept me riveted and left me with new things to consider about this ballet. I loved the understated elegance and economy of her acting, and every gorgeous detail of her dancing. As Odette, she doesn’t display the customary nervous and desperate energy, yet we still feel such compassion for her. So much is made about the thirty-two fouette turns that must be executed by Odile in this ballet, but on reflection after having seen Ms. Kondaurova’s performance, I feel that Odette could be the more challenging role. She danced it with a sophistication that I’d never seen before. Mr. Askerov partners her masterfully.
Toward the end of the lakeside scene, there is a protracted rest in the music in which the action on stage freezes as Ms. Kondaurov holds a pique attitude. This surprise worked to enhance the other-worldly atmosphere of the scene and to underscore the seriousness of the love shared by Siegfried and Odette.

Early on in the Black Swan Pas de Deux, the stage lighting dims, magnifying the danger as Odile is casting her spell. It stays this way until the moment of truth, when the lighting returns to normal, intensifying the chaos that ensues. With every lift of her chin and every haughty glance, Ms. Kondaurova is captivating.
As for the production in general, I found the lakeside sets to be especially enchanting. The swans truly move in the entrained fashion of a flock of birds. They seem to sense one another in a telepathic fashion and they move in unison with beautiful precision, as if they are of one mind. This was especially evident as the cygnets executed their crisp clean footwork.
I found the divertissements in Act II to be among the best I’ve seen in terms of choreography and flair. I especially loved the stylish long reaches and the deep elongated side bends performed by Lyubov Kozharskaya and Anastasia Petushkova in the Spanish dance.

SwanLake20150115-151SwanLake20150115-327This is a long ballet. With two intermissions and a prolonged third act, it runs over three hours. Yet the bows and curtain calls went on for quite a while, with howls and screams growing louder as they rose up from the balcony where we were sitting. This was a very special night in the theater and the audience knew it.
I have to tip my hat to BAM. They always go the extra mile to enhance the audience’s experience. They e-mail ticket holders a few days before the performance, sending along links to interviews, articles and video to provide context for the ballet. This is much appreciated.

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