New Swan Lake
Posted 09 June 2004 - 09:20 AM
This occured to me as well. I haven't seen very much of Wheeldon's work, and so I'm not sure how much of my reaction is to his aesthetic and how much is to this particular production, but I have very mixed feelings.
By their nature, story ballets begin with a concept of sorts, so that if you shift some of those elements you change the whole. There are many different productions of SL around, some of which make substantial changes in the story, or the setting, or another aspect of the work. Some of these are very successful, but often it feels like changes are made just for the sake of changing -- dance is such a permeable artform that we have come to expect difference. But most of these versions still cleave to the core elements of SL, especially the magical aspects of the plot. By setting the work in a specific time and place (the Paris of Degas) rather than in a more ephemeral past, and especially by changing the major plot mechanism (the transformative powers of love and magic), Wheeldon has radically shifted the message of the ballet. He has substituted psychology for magic, making a kind of post-Freudean work. In its way, this is a more significant change than Matthew Bourne's work, which doesn't really pretend to be SL, but rather another dance using certain touchstones from the Petipa/Ivanov ballet.
Judging it on its own, Wheeldon's ballet has many attractive elements -- he seems very confident in his manipulation of the corps in the "white" acts. I was sitting on the main floor, but heard from friends above that the geometry of those sections was quite nice. There is an abrupt kind of bouyancy in some of his partnering that reminds me of Ashton (thinking of The Dream, and Oberon's snatching lifts with Titania) but he's also channelling MacMillan's unfortunate tendency to sling women around. Still, there's a firm sense of musicality there -- his waltzes have true momentum without being soporific. And although I don't like the reconceptualized divertisments in act 3, he has a sure hand with vernacular dances.
As Swan Lake, I think this is much less successful. The revisions make the story less important -- if it's all in Siegfried's head then the tragedy is just personal. We feel sorry for him, but we don't identify with him -- he doesn't represent anything universal for us. By taking away the metaphor, it makes the ballet weaker.
Some miscellaneous thoughts:
In a talk for the Dance Critics Association, Wheeldon said that he changed the diverts in act three because he wanted to get away from poorly performed national dances, which I can understand, but three of the new versions (Russian, Spanish and Mazurka/Can-Can) have a kind of low rent night-club act quality that doesn't seem like a good substitute. If he was going for a kind of debauchery, he didn't get far enough. (and the Can-Can dancers need ruffles on their pettipants!)
I wasn't sure how "realistic" the acting was supposed to be. Sometimes it seemed fairly abstract -- indicating rather than experiencing, but then in the fourth act Odette's shoulders were shaking as she wept. It seemed almost too literal.
The set (three walls of ballet studio) felt a bit claustrophobic, making what seems like a small stage even smaller, so that when dancers exited they had to literally go out a door, but in act three, when they brought in tables to make it into a cabaret setting, the swags and flowers on the set decorations linked the stage to the ornate decor of the theater very nicely -- it actually felt less hemmed-in.
Posted 09 June 2004 - 11:59 AM
I really appreciated reading your insights to Wheeldon's new SL. I do not see it until this weekend. However, from all I have read and heard, I think you have made some extremely valid points. Is it Swan Lake or something else? And what happens to the imagery and symbols of romanticism if it has been replaced by reality? :shrug: I guess I am sensing a loss of poetry here. It does sound like a beautifully crafted production in the similar vein as a well designed Broadway production. Very theatrical. For me, Swan Lake is about the love of beauty and pursuit of that ideal form as mysterious and ehpemeral as it may be. Maybe this SL is for a new generation ..........Can't wait to see for myself
Posted 09 June 2004 - 12:39 PM
I've just put up the new DanceView Times. There are two reviews, one pro, one con, and several photos.
Go to http://www.danceviewtimes.com You'll see the links to the reviews in the top box on the home page, right column.
Posted 12 June 2004 - 04:26 AM
First, the corps was excellent. The PA Ballet has gone up a couple of notches in our (me and DD) opinion. We saw the cast with Riolama Lorenzo and Zachary Hench. Both were excellent.
The stage at the Academy, not large to begin with, was made even smaller with the pretext of the studio. The backdrop at the end looked more like an ocean- or Lake Superior- than a lake. I did not like the extreme messing with Act III. The Odile pas did not make sense where it was put- there was not a story "flow", and the somewhat over the top Russian/Spanish/can can dances I thought were more for audience than contributed anything to the overall drama.
Kevin McKenzie was in the audience (and had better seats than us!). Would love to know what he thought.
Posted 17 June 2004 - 04:24 PM
Posted 21 June 2004 - 01:01 PM
Prior to actually seeing the ballet, I shivered in my shoes for PAB taking such risk in staging an old classic with a new contemporary vision. This is not normally their style....and the risks were many. The company rose to and beyond the task at hand and Mr. Wheeldon made a ballet for them that more than suit this talented group. Since the sets were made for traveling, let's hope it travels far and wide! This is a Swan Lake worth viewing - and more than once if you want to catch all the details. It may not be all things to all people, but then what version is?
Brava to Dede Barfield for her last performance with PAB. Her performance captured my heart.
Alexei Borovik was her soulful partner and the two of them were magical together.
The corps danced brilliantly and the production itself is amazing - sets, costumes, lighting design.
Posted 22 June 2004 - 12:34 PM
And if so, is there a link?
Posted 22 June 2004 - 12:58 PM
He did review it, but it's not on line, unfortunately. (It may be, but you can only access the site if you're a paid subscriber.) I think an excerpt was posted on Links when it came out -- I'll try and find it for you.
Posted 22 June 2004 - 12:59 PM
Robert Greskovic reviews Christopher Wheeldon's new "Swan Lake" in the Wall Street Journal today; it's available on line only to subscribers, but here's a sample:
Mr. Wheeldon strays further than most from the so-called traditional staging. He locates his "Swan Lake" narrative not in the mythic, Germanic climes of its original setting, but in Edgar Degas's late-19th-century Paris. His leading characters have many of the names found in the 1877 outline -- Prince Siegfried, The Queen, Von Rothbart-- but at times these same individuals double as nameless dancers or ballet world figures who might be depicted in Degas's pictures. Mr. Wheeldon also tweaks and cuts Tchaikovsky's admittedly sprawling score in order to support his scheme for showing "Swan Lake" as a fantastical dream framed by the world of 19th-century Parisian ballet.
Along the way, unfortunately, audiences are left to wonder where the action is taking them as the dance scenes and choreographic numbers take place, now within the walls of a ballet studio fixed with a large, framed mirror, and then in a dappled interior where light passes through the walls and the doorways open onto choppy water reminiscent of some eerie Edward Hopper painting. Mr. Wheeldon's reworking of the ballet's story, setting and characters, demands concentration that often confounds the audience and distracts from the dancing itself. This is a problem, because in many instances his choreography proves impressive. His great strength in this work is with grouping and animating the swan-maiden ensemble, which he does with a delicate touch that creates effects both eye-catching and moving.
Posted 23 June 2004 - 07:19 AM
Posted 23 June 2004 - 07:24 AM
No sweat if not; I woulnd't have to look through that many in my local library.
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