Performing Arts: Dance
July 19, 2014
The eternal struggle between good and evil drives Yuri Grigorovich’s Swan Lake for the Bolshoi Ballet performed at the David H. Koch Theater during the Lincoln Center Festival. However, in this version, the Swan Queen Odette (Svetlana Zakharova, Anna Nikulina) is not the only one shadowed by her evil twin Odile, the Evil Genius/Sorcerer (Vladislav Lantratov, Denis Rodkin) echoes the Prince Siegfried’s (David Hallberg, Artem Ovcharenko) actions.

I saw two casts considerably different in tone and execution. One production starring the long-limbed Zhakarova resembled a silent film; the other with Lupkin suggested a postmodern documentary. Their suitors were equally different. Zhakarova’s prince was the classically pure, but tentative Hallberg, while the airily graceful Ovcharenko projected a youthful ardor.

Much to the chagrin of many a viewer, Grigorovich’s version cuts and pastes parts of the Tchaikovsky score and choreography disrupting the original flow. Variations and the ending are changed but there are some very effective passages, like the first section by the lakeside, and the final act when the black and white swans swirl together in a pool of fluttering distress.

A demanding role, few ballerinas are equally successful in the dual role of Odette/Odile. When Ms. Zakharova first appears, her long, thin tapering arms and legs make her look like a swan come to life. A taut technician, Zakharova’s face emotes plenty while her body remains exacting in execution. Well matched physically, Hallberg’s purity of form and long, expansive leaps soar, but vital chemistry between Zakharova and Hallberg is absent.

Adept at the intricacies and clarity of the Odette’s long arabesques, quivering foot to ankle beats and long back arches against a raised leg, Zakharova relaxed in the role of Odile. A natural at haughty flirtation, Zakharova’s smile and whiplash legs put everyone on notice. Especially comfortable with her partner, the dramatically exciting Lantratov, Zakharova expresses full confidence in her seduction of Hallberg.

The second cast performances were radically different. Ms. Nikulina’s interpretation made Odette a very cool, sometimes sly swan. Again, there’s not much chemistry, but at least Mr. Ovcharenko appears convincing in his ardor for this passive/flighty swan. More internalized than externalized, Nikulina also demonstrates a proud technique, especially when she rips off multiple turns during Odile’s famous string of 32 fouettes. But she remains utterly aloof.

Despite Nikulina’s remote performance, her suitor love struck suitor floats across the stage in light, exquisitely formed leaps and turns that slowly unwind on the fourth revolution to a perfect landing. Ovcharenko is worth watching—assuming the Bolshoi doesn’t lose him to another hungry, international ballet company.

A couple of other dancers deserve mention, in particular the first cast Fool, Igor Tsvirko. An athletic dancer, he’s a manic spinner and buoyant jumper, but most importantly, Tsvirko can act! Every time he appears, Tsvirko teases the audience, and adds a personalized dimension to his clownish role.

Among the young female dancers’ who got tongues wagging was the standout Olga Marchenkova. Light and vitally charming, she sparkled as one of the three Swans and in the role of the Russian Bride. Another eye-catching ballerina, the reed long Yulia Grebenshchikova excelled as one of the Three Swans and in the Hungarian Bride, she added the traditional Baroque snap of the head accenting the musical phrase.

Speaking of music, listening to Tchaikovsky’s score by the Bolshoi Orchestra under the baton of Pavel Sorokin soared. In particular, the brass rang out clear and sharp and next to a luminous harp.

Overall, the company’s talent is deep and the ranks are full of potentially stunning dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

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