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How do you like your Swan Lake?


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 17 March 1999 - 11:42 PM

Question of the week: I'm curious about what people think of when they think of "Swan Lake." What does a production have to have to satisfy you? What do you expect when you go to see a production that you don't know anything about? I'll happily stipulate that there isn't an "authentic" production around, but there are still things -- images, steps, parts of the story -- that mean "Swan Lake" to people: 24 swan maidens, 32 fouettes, love, betrayal, death, owls. Benno or a Jester? Happy ending or sad? All or none of the above.

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#2 Steve Keeley

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 01:58 AM

My expectations of a proper SW include the basic 4 acts, with Act II and Act IV the "White Acts." Female swans. No psychological re-interpretations. NO JESTER!!! A Black Swan pas de DEUX, not a pas de trois including Rothbart. And they jump in the lake at the end; the score was not written for a happy ending. See the video of the ABT production with Makarova/Nagy to see how to do it right.

~Steve

#3 cargill

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 09:23 AM

I basically agree with Steve, especially NO JESTER. But when I saw Makarova, she used to leave out the 2nd act mime, which to me is essential. Without it, the ballet become more abstract and less tragic. I also really like the Drigoesque last act that ABT does. I think it has a nice flow and variety. And I think Rothbart should be a vaguely menacing evil, not run around the stage in red tights and shadow box. And it should be set in Medieval Germany, because that is the period of the myth. Basically, it shouldn't look anything like the current Royal Ballet production.

#4 Guest_Juliet Shore_*

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 11:06 AM

Maybe I've grown up seeing too many Russian productions, but I don't mind the Jester anymore. It gives all those short guys with great technique something fun to do...Truly, I'm not trying to be flippant.

I want the second act mime, too. Too many dancers aren't learning it and I think it's a loss.

I don't care about the gender of the swans. I would not have said this prior to seeing the AMP Swan Lake.

It must be choreography which can match the music--not any easy task--I say stick with Petipa/Ivanov.

Beautifully schooled corps. Properly trained character dancers.

Number of swans not an issue. But...quiet pointe shoes are.

I won't say I don't care about the happy/sad ending--but when you have seen it done really well, it is just another element of a supremely moving experience.

We all have our own little idiosyncratic things which make us cringe (for me it's overweight swans in sloppy patterns and bad character dancing) but I think this is going to be an extremely entertaining thread!

And I'm sure we'll all think of additionos to each of our postings!

#5 Kevin Ng

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 11:21 AM

I am happy as long as I can see the Kirov Ballet dancing in the Sergueyev version of Swan Lake. Everything in this production is right in scale and tone. Every performance of Swan Lake by the Kirov is like a ritual to me!

#6 Giannina

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 11:27 AM

For me "Swan Lake" is the ultimate test for the ballerina. She's in a tutu so there's no place to hide sloppy technique. This is where she "shows me what's she's got", and if she is one of the best she will never look better. It takes my breath away just thinking about it.


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#7 Ed Waffle

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 01:32 PM

1) Agreement with Steve Keeley on ending--we saw Makarova and Nagy HURL themselves from a rock into the wings at the end of one performance and it is the single most memorable moment we have had in a theater.

2) The concertmaster should really dig into the adagio and play it not just as accompaniment but as a virtuoso solo violin piece.

3) All the things I will think of (as Juliet Shore mentioned) that I will recall as soon as I hit the "submit reply" button.

[This message has been edited by Ed Waffle (edited 03-18-99).]

#8 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 02:59 PM

Swans danced by girls and led by a ballerina who knows her trade -- preferably Kirov/Sergeyev production.

Can somebody tell me please what's wrong with that poor jester? Thanks.

#9 dirac

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 04:05 PM

I like a solid conservative Swan Lake, and I fear I must agree that the Jester is an annoyance. At the most he's acceptable as a diversion in the early court scenes, but that's that. I also object to giving Siegfried too much prominence, as in the Grigorovich version, mainly because the musical scheme doesn't allow for it. (This is also true for the Jester.) I know the danseurs get unhappy about having to take the back seat, but that's the way it goes, guys. I think the Nureyev solo is all right, though.

#10 Paul W

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 07:43 PM

My most vivid memory (5 years ago?) of the Balanchine version of Swan Lake was a ballerina exiting stage far right after a long, long slow bourre across the stage!! I see it in my dreams. That would satisfy me at this point.

By the way, cargill, what exactly is "a Drigoesque last act" ?

#11 Kevin Ng

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Posted 18 March 1999 - 10:26 PM

Paul, I also love the Balanchine version of Swan Lake. I last saw it danced by NYCB in 1996 with Kyra Nichols. After the Kirov Sergueyev version, this Balanchine version is my second favourite.

I dread the new Peter Martins production of Swan Lake that NYCB is going to premiere this summer. I saw this Martins version once in 1997 danced by Royal Danish Ballet. It is awful!

#12 Lillian

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Posted 19 March 1999 - 09:01 AM

Oh sorry, but the one act Balanchine Swan Lake just doesn't "do it" for me. I like the whole thing, especially the beginning of the fourth act Kirov version with all those sad little swan variations to that delicate music.
I also prefer a thin Swan Queen and corps to give it that otherwordly feeling. There is nothing worse than robust Swan Queen. This is why I quite liked Mezentseva in this role.
Did anyone see Kirkland dance Swan Lake? I can't even imagine what that would have been like?

#13 cargill

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Posted 19 March 1999 - 09:41 AM

Paul, When Petipa decided to choreography Swan Lake (after Tschaikovsky had died), he had Drigo redo the fourth act. As I recall he reorchestrated some of it, and (I haven't looked this up), may have added some of his own plinky-plinky music. The ABT version uses it. There is the drama of the Tchaikovsky storm, and then a brief lighter pas de deux (the plinky-plinky bit), and then the Tchaikovsky suicide and apotheosis. I have come to really like the soft contrast between all the drama. Most redone last acts are so frantic. Another thing I like are a few black swans in the last act, to give a bit of contrast to the second.

#14 Guest_Juliet Shore_*

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Posted 19 March 1999 - 10:06 AM

OOOOOOO, this question is for Kevin. I really love New York City Ballet, but I confess to some previous trepidation when I heard about the new Swan Lake. Please give me your impressions of the production. Is it the design, choreography, or the dancing that was objectionable? I am still looking forward to attending performances, but hope that my original reservations are going to be less than anticipated.

#15 Kevin Ng

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Posted 19 March 1999 - 10:56 AM

Juliet, I didn't take detailed notes from the single performance of Peter Martins' Swan Lake danced by Royal Danish Ballet, led by Silja Schandorff and Kenneth Greve. But I found the choreography generally over-fussy, like Martins' ballets for NYCB. There were plenty of technically difficult steps busily strung together which formed no coherent shape.

On the whole, the Martins choreography did not improve on the traditional choreography, or indeed the Balanchine choreography in Mr. B's one-act version.

To be fair, the sets and costumes designs were however colourful enough and quite good.


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