Friday, January 17, 2014

Moscow Festival Ballet presents a buoyant fairy tale in 'Swan Lake' at the Tarkington

Prince Siegfried and sorcerer Von Rothbart vie for control of Odette.
It got off to a rough start in 19th-century Russia, but has since become iconic, with its white tutus and graceful wing beats. "Swan Lake," a classic ballet with memorable music, has been treated to a wide range of adaptation and interpretation over the past century and a quarter.

Through Saturday, the touring Moscow Festival Ballet is presenting the Petipa-Ivanov-Tchaikovsky work at the Tarkington at Carmel's Center for the Performing Arts.

Thursday's opening-night performance made clear that this production would do more than emphasize the happy ending in which the Prince's love for Odette ends the spell that has trapped young women in the form of swans. It would also soft-pedal the disappointment at court that the Prince rejects the foreign brides who are presented to him, while making the most of the comic possibilities offered by the Jester and the Tutor.

Prince Siegfried with Odette and the swans
Buoyancy and optimism ran in a clear line through the performance, underlined through another production choice. The conventional casting of the same dancer as Odette and Odylle, the sorcerer's daughter who fools the Prince into thinking she is Odette, is set aside in this production.

The difference in their personalities is embodied in two dancers: On opening night,  they were Olga Gudkova (Odette) and Maria Sokolnikova (Odylle). The upside: doubling the opportunity to see two ballerinas in leading roles.  The downside: Sacrifice of tour-de-force sizzle and reduction of the evil-enchantment factor.

Prince Siegfried, as danced by Nurlan Kinerbaev,  had the royal demeanor thoroughly in control. The Prince's lovesick passion causes him to risk everything by accepting the Odette's story of the curse and casting in his lot with her. That was not much in evidence in Kinerbaev's performance. Nobility is its own reward, but perhaps ardor ought to have been more infused into the princely qualities he consistently displayed.

Sokolnikova's portrayal of Odylle was electrifying. Her dancing was sharply focused and alluring, and a dependable high point in the role — the variation with 32 fouettes in the Act 3 pas de deux — was expertly brought off. Gudkova's Odette was properly chaste and contained, but maybe too much so to underscore the pathos of her plight under the curse.

Accompanied by technical flashes and booms, Evgeny Rudakov's Von Rothbart was thoroughly effective, no more so than in his fourth-act descent upon the swan maidens in what turns out to be a futile attempt to assert his power over the Prince's determination.

Viacheslav Tapkharov's Jester amazed with his relentless bounciness and feats of athleticism. Despite what appeared to be a couple of hard landings, he never failed to be captivating. His companion as a "court character" — the almost non-dancing role of the Tutor — was amusingly filled by Dmitry Romanov.

Other high points in Thursday's performance:  a precisely timed, vigorous Dance of the Cygnets in Act 2, an elegant first-act Pas de Trois, and among the character dances of the brides in Act 3, the Mazurka, with Elena Khorosheva as the prospective Polish Bride. The corps de ballet, chiefly the swans surrounding Odette, moved like an orderly dream — a guarantee of "Swan Lake"'s perpetual charm.

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