Performing Arts: Dance
July 1, 2022
An inexhaustibly enthusiastic crowd cheered Skylar Brandt (Odette/Odile) and Herman  Cornejo (Prince Siegfried) in the popular story ballet Swan Lake.  Based on the revised 1895 ballet by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov Swan Lake with poignantly lush music by Tchaikovsky, Kevin McKenzie adapted the ballet and added a front-of-the-curtain prologue visualizing the evil sorcerer snatching a beautiful woman and turning her into a forlorn swan.

In celebration of the Prince's 21st birthday, peppy villagers frolic and toss off festive gigs, topped off by the diverting pas de trois danced with verve by corps de ballet members, Zimmi Coker, Breanne Granlund and Patrick Frenette. Although fully capable, Frenette's body holds tension until he loosens up in whizzing barrel turns. A natural jumper, Granlund airily springs into the rafters and Coker endearingly ferries through lacy hops and directional shifts.

A mainstay of ballet companies, Swan Lake demands technical and dramatic mastery and in her debut performance, Brandt took control of her destiny. Steady in Cornejo's embrace, Brandt's winged arms undulate over the signature, straight-arrow arabesques, framed by her torso folding into soft backbends guided the whole time by Cornejo's eyes and sure-hands.

Surrounded by a shimmering corps de ballet that breathe as one, Odette-- at first concerned by this man with a lethal crossbow -- succumbs to Prince Siegfried. Learning that "true love" can break the the sorcerer's spell that transforms Odette from a woman at night to a swan in the day, Siegfried swears he will love her throughout eternity.

When Siegrfried arrives at the ball the following day, processions and courtly dances abound until gate-crashers materialize to the sound of trumpets: Odile (Odette's evil twin) and the evil Rothbart (performed by Gabe Stone Shayer). Both Brandt and Shayer exude youthful eagerness rather than radiating ravishing wickedness and sexual allure. Constantly gaining in performance strength, Shayer-- like Brandt-- exhibits a love of dance. 

In the duet with Cornejo, Brandt strikes out in a wide, arabesque tilted rivetingly off-balance, nearly tipping over but for Cornejo's perfectly timed hand grasp. Fully prepared, Brandt sustained extended balances and tossed off the centerpiece 32 fouettes. 

Cornejo soars through his solos, finishing in immaculate landings, executing clear beats and the signature leaps that stretch into longing back arches. Individually, each step and gesture speaks of his anxiety, despair and love. Invariably retaining visual or physical contact with Brandt, like all great actors, Cornejo reveals his interior thoughts and emotions through his interpretive skills.

A large scale production, the ballet ascends and wanes, but the central solos and duets remain compelling. It will be a pleasure to watch Brandt mature into the role, find more breath and expansiveness in Odette; danger and attitude in Odile. Otherwise, brava to a rousing debut.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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