Ballet Review: “Swan Lake”
Tchaikovsky’s first ballet “Swan Lake” was first performed in 1877 and has been a mainstay on ballet stages ever since, with many dancers aspiring to take on the challenging role of Odette/Odile. The ballet we are familiar with today is based on the original choreography of Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, and Alexander Gorsky and most recently updated by Nicholas Beriozoff, Malcolm Burn provides supplemental choreography and staging for Richmond Ballet’s production.
Highlighted by Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score, performed by the Richmond Symphony conducted by Ron Matson for Richmond Ballet, “Swan Lake” is the story of Odette, a princess who has been turned into a swan by evil sorcerer von Rothbart and can only be changed back to human form by the love of a man who has never loved before.
Featured in Friday night’s production, as well as Saturday’s matinee, are Shira Lanyi and Thomas Garrett as Princess Odette and Prince Siegfried. On Saturday night and Sunday’s matinee, Richmond Ballet hosts two special guest artists in the featured roles, Meng Ning Ning and Huang Jun Shuang of the Queensland Ballet.
Lanyi and Garrett take on the difficult technical roles with gusto and Lanyi’s series of fouettes in the dance of the Black Swan as Odile were absolutely breathtaking, eliciting several rounds of applause from Friday’s enthusiastic audience. Garrett is dashing as the Prince, tall and regal, his height making him a commanding presence on stage. As “Swan Lake” is a classic tale of good vs. evil, Lanyi gives a powerful performance as she balances the sweet innocence of Odette with the diabolical Odile, dedicating herself fully to each part.
Trevor Davis provides comic relief with well-timed and hilarious facial expressions as the court jester and Phillip Skaggs plays the evil von Rothbart convincingly enough that the audience jokingly boo-ed him at the end of Friday’s performance.
The swan maidens in their white costumes are amazing to behold as they move in synch, appearing to be floating on the water of the lake. At the beginning of Act IV they are concealed under a thick cloud of fog causing the audience to gasp as they slowly emerge. The dark backdrop of the lake contrasts amazingly against the white of their costumes as they extend their arms to mimic the necks of swans.
The opulent set and costumes designed by Jens-Jacob Worsaae are courtesy of the San Francisco Ballet and are elegant and tasteful, just understated enough to ensure the dance is the main focus. I was especially impressed with the palace scene in Act III where Siegfried is being seduced by Odile and a frantic Odette appears behind a screen as if desperately trying to get the Prince’s attention through a high palace window.
In many versions, Odette and Prince Siegfried kill themselves so they may be joined in the afterlife after realizing they cannot break von Rothbart’s spell. But thankfully in Richmond Ballet’s production, as I am always a fan of happy endings, von Rothbart is defeated and the Prince and Princess live happily ever after.
There will be two more shows this weekend, February 9th at 7p.m. and February 10th at 2p.m.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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