Swan Lake Keeps Neck In
artistic direction by Bruce Marle
at the Wang Center
through March 13
The Boston Ballet has chosen to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary season with the commemoration of the man who set a new standard for ballet music, the great Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Entranced by the "majesty, magic, and imagination" of Tchaikovsky's work, Artistic Director Bruce Marks has selected ballets for the 1993-94 season which feature the breadth and "dance-ability" of Tchaikovsky's "approachable" rhythms.
Boston audiences have already enjoyed the first two productions of the Boston Ballet's all-Tchaikovsky season, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, and await Eugene Onegin and a reperatory program of ballets choreographed by George Ballanchine. Most recently, the Boston International Choreography Competition staged its Tchaikovsky Anew program, in which teams of choreographers created new works set to the Tchaikovsky score of their choice.
Swan Lakewas Tchaikovsky's first foray into the ballet world, and has become a ballet classic with its universal themes of good and evil, truth and deception, love, and coming of age. The Boston Ballet pumped an entirely new energy into this timeless classic in 1990, orchestrating the first ever Soviet/American collaboration on all facets of a full ballet production.
This "glastnost"' Swan Lake paired principal dancers from the Boston Ballet with artists from the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets in the lead roles of Odette/Odile and Prince Sigfried. The production attracted a record-breaking attendance of 43,000 fans over its two-week run, creating an overwhelming international stir.
Although the geo-political make-up of the world has changed so that the Boston Ballet can no longer capitalize on once-fresh terms like "glastnost,"' this 1994 production of Swan Lake remains a vehicle for true cultural and emotional understanding. Even the most inexperienced viewer cannot remain untouched by the absorbing energy and beauty of the production. After its 1990 grand premire, Swan Lake. appeared again in 1992; it has evolved into the "glittering, critically-acclaimed jewel in the crown" of the Boston Ballet's repertoire, to use the modest words of Boston Ballet's own magazine, Sightless. While the production is politically avant-garde, Marks' interpretation remains utterly traditional.
The success of any production of Swan Lake hinges upon the talents of its principal dancers. Larissa Ponomarenkeno projected an unwavering pathos and clean technique throughout her demanding double role of Odette/Odile. Her charisma tended to overshadow her sultry, though less exciting partner Patrick Armand in his role of Prince Sigfried. The pure lines of their pas de deux and the chemistry between Ponomarenko and Armand was complemented well by the spectacle of the events which surrounded their plot. The ensemble scenes of merrymaking on the castle lawn in Act I and in the castle ballroom in Act III sustain an interest independent of the central pair; they prove that both the quality and spirit of the dance extend to the whole cast. Of particular note was Daniel Meja as the mischievous jester, who often upstaged the principal dancers with his tendon-defying tours jester and boyant personality.
The sustaining artistic force of this production, however, was the difficult and important role danced by the female corps de ballet. Swan Lake challenges the 32-member corps to match and refine their movements into one coherent unit, synthesizing their complex array of patterns and moods into a synchronized succession of "visual feasts." Despite a few mis-timed steps and occasionally uneven spacing, the corps de ballet was largely successful in creating its elegant illusion of swanhood.
For those seated in the third balcony and unable to appreciate the finer aspects of ballet technique, this production nevertheless assures entertainment through its lavish display of scenery and costumes. John Conklin based his scenic designs on the fifteenth century painting style of Fantastic Realism landscapes and German High Gothic architecture. Crimson Ballrooms and misty mountain vistas heighten the drama of the production, and Conklin's costumes are equally timely and striking.
This fanfare revival of Swan Lake certainly lived up to its billing as the Boston Ballet's signature production, and has evolved beyond its originally "political" signifigance.