Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Ballet, recognized internationally as one of the world’s leading ballet companies, returns to the Kennedy Center with its signature staging of Swan Lake (Jan. 28 – Feb. 2, 2014). “Boasting an artistic legacy that spans more than 200 years,” the acclaimed company presents its re-staged production of Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s classic tale of romance and tragedy. Principal dancer Alina Semova stands out for her lead performance as Odette–Odile, alongside principal Vladimir Shklyarov and second soloist Andrei Yermakov as the evil magician von Rothbart.
Tchaikovsky’s classic and beautifully profound score sets the mood for this four act fantasy. Its deep virtuoso leads the dancers, and the audience, through the brisk tempo lying somewhere between allegro and adagio. Semova enchants the audience with her delicate portrayal of the white swan, Odette. Her long limbs and fragile figure embody both loss and mystery, and the captivating Queen of the swans, no less; moving with swift determination across the stage (done en pointe). There is a fragile, delicacy in her movements that make you feel the music even more. Principal dancer and male lead Shklyarov is quietly convincing in his role as the ever-loyal Prince Siegfried. His impeccable technique and boyish charm did not go unnoticed. Nor did his tours and grand jetés during his solo.
The Mariinsky Ballet brings its national ballet to life with Igor Ivanov’s elaborate sets, including a lavish castle with a fanfare of trumpets heralds and Baroque-era tapestries. The atmospheric Act II and Act IV, “The Lakeside, At Night,” were elegant departures from the earlier scenes. Here is where the Mariinsky’s strong female corps de ballet moves in and out of line with such exacting precision. They practice their arabesques and fold their arms on their tutus with heads bowed–suggesting a silhouette of a bird with folded wings. The corp infuses Semova and her partner with ineffable magnitude elevating the performance from ballet to Romantic vision. Second soloist Yermakov brings the “black swan” into the ballet with his role as the “evil magician” von Rothbart with his impressive leaps and darker plumage.
Petipa’s choreography plays with the conflicting nature of the rival Swan maidens, Odette and Odile, “setting up a contrast between daring fascination and tender craftiness with elegiac languor.” To the simple, graceful dances of the cygnets he opposed the tracery of court waltzes and the violent colors of Hungarian, polish, and Spanish folk dances.” There was a liveliness and familiarity to the company’s performance, particularly during these palatial ball scenes, which evoked an unfamiliar intimacy. Perhaps, this is Petipa’s point, distinguishing between fascination, allure, and love. A new ending leaves us more hopeful…of course, not before Semova has seduced us a second time over in the famed Black Swan Pas De Deux.
The final act takes us back to the lakeside where we once again are reunited with the Queen of the Swans and her beloved Siegfried. Tchaikovsky crescendos and the corps return to the stage in delicate fury in the final Waltz for White and Black Swans; arresting in both black and white tutus, and convincing the audience one last time of their other-worldliness. Mariinsky Ballet continues to perform Konstantin Sergeyev’s 1950s update to the tragic original saving our heroes and hearts from their fateful ending at the bottom of the deep. A beautiful performance of the classic ballet Swan Lake. It appears true love does conquer all–as the acclaimed company closed the night to standing ovation!
The Mariinsky Ballet will be performing Swan Lake at the Kennedy Center Opera House now through February 2, 2014. All tickets on sale now. For more great dance at the Kennedy Center, don’t miss upcoming performances by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, February 4-9, 2014, with its winning combination of captivating new works and enduring classics.