sasark

Swan Lake - most important sequences?

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I'm going to see a production of "Swan Lake" tomorrow and have a newbie question. Apart from the 32 fouettes, what do you think are the most important sequences, from a technical perspective?

On a more general note, what qualities characterize your favorite productions of this work? And in the other direction, what shortcomings can ruin it for you?

thanks a lot,

Sasha

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Unfair of me to comment and run (I've got chores) but I think the 32 fouettes are not especially important, except as a measure of sheer physical skill. When I'm getting ready to watch SL, I'm looking for the use of virtuosity (which the turns are a part of) in a dramatic context. All on their own, Odile's skills are impressive but not particularly evocative -- if the dancer is able to create a sense of power or enchantment in her relationship using those skills, that's when I get excited.

"From a technical perspective" I care if the corps is dancing cleanly, making the rhythm and the architecture of the choreography clear. I care if the dancers performing Odette/Odille and Siegfried have a uniformity of approach (they don't need to be twins, but it helps if they're in sync with the logistics of partnering) that lets them concentrate on the relationship rather than the steps. And although I don't really need Odile to do 30+ perfect turns, I need her to attack her material with brio and confidence -- I need her to make the technical stuff into magic.

And yes, your mileage may vary!

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The Pas de Trois from Act I. The Love Duet from Act II. The Black Swan PDD from Act III. The cygnets Pas de Quatre. In terms of specific "moments", all individual variations are highly technical-(Benno's, Siegfried's, Odette's, Odile's and in some productions, the court jester's). The 32 fouettes are a measure of the ballerina's power-(and Odile's)-so make sure you count them!-(if she does double or triple pirouettes in between fouettes, then it can get confusing...).

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And I do. Let's agree to disagree...? tiphat.gif (Oh, how many times have I seen ballerinas just pacing aimlessly around after failing to complete the sequence...inventing things onstage and probably thinking angrily..."Will that damned music ever gonna stop, for Christ sake..??!?!"...Siegfried can't help that much here, IMO...). And remember, sasark...many dancers can strike beautiful poses and look glamorous, but not all of them will master the fouettes. So look for that clue.

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Have a great time, and let us know what you thought!

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What great questions, sasark.

I agree with cubanmiamiboy, I'd say the most important technical sequences are the main pas de deux in Act II, the "4 little swans" (they dance all in a line holding hands until the final release - look for complete uniformity and staying on the music), the black swan pas de deux in Act III and the Act I pas de trois.

I think the 32 fouettes are very important. Not necessarily doing 32 per se, but the technical mastery and staying in one place (not traveling all over the stage while doing them) is what counts.

What really wraps it up for me, is a dancer who can master the dichotomous challenge of playing Odette and Odile. Frequently, you see a ballerina who can embody one really well, but not the other, and you end up feeling unfulfilled as a viewer. It's not just about technique.

Which company are you seeing?

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I'm going to see a production of "Swan Lake" tomorrow and have a newbie question. Apart from the 32 fouettes, what do you think are the most important sequences, from a technical perspective?

On a more general note, what qualities characterize your favorite productions of this work? And in the other direction, what shortcomings can ruin it for you?

thanks a lot,

Sasha

What production are you seeing, Sasha? When I'm home tonight I will write about my feelings and views about SL!

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hi ABT Fan and AlbanyGirl. Thanks so much for your responses! To answer your question, the company is/was the Ballet of the National Theater of Brno, in the Czech Republic, which is where I live. I saw one performance last night, and I will return to see a different cast on Saturday.


AlbanyGirl, I'd love to see your comments whenever you have time!


ABT Fan, your last comment is so on the money in regard to my Odette/Odile from last night. The ballerina, a visiting soloist from the Eifman Ballet in St. Petersburg (Svetlana Bjednenko), was not compelling as Odette, at least not to me. But her Odile -- wow! From the minute she appeared, I could see this was her part. That is why it was so unfortunate when she had some troubles with the fouettes... First of all, she did travel. But that was a small thing. About two-thirds of the way through the sequence, she faltered significantly enough that I was afraid she was going to fall. Someone earlier in Act III *did* fall, so who knows -- maybe that was on her mind. Anyway, when she faltered, I could hear people all around me sucking in their breath. She kept going, thank god, more or less until the point at which I think the music says you're supposed to stop. But it did seem that she ended the fouettes a few beats early, and a little clumsily.


It really was too bad, because as I said, up until then, she was a beguiling Odile. But, as you say, it's not enough to do just one part, and I think her Odette needs a lot of work. It seemed very one-note to me. She came across as martyr-like and not much else.


So that was the big downside. It might sound like a big downside, but in general I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the production. Brno is not a very big city, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But in general, I thought the standard seemed high, and I'm looking forward to seeing a different ballerina in a few days.


By the way, the little swans were great. Thanks for letting me know which they were. I'd heard to look out for little swans but never would have guessed that that's who they were!


Sasha

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Sometimes some productions of SL have their share of additional solos, as in Grigorovich staging for the Bolshoi, which has a solo ballerina on pointe for each of the national dances plus the Russian one-(music usually omitted, although ABT uses it as a solo for Von Rothbart). And as I said earlier, the Russians are very fond of the court jester, which usually dances a solo with some original music not used by Petipa. Perhaps you had some of this...?

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And as I said earlier, the Russians are very fond of the court jester, which usually dances a solo with some original music not used by Petipa. Perhaps you had some of this...?

Not just the Russians -- Kent Stowell's version for Pacific Northwest Ballet has a featured role for the jester. Cannot off the top of my head remember what music he's got, though.

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And as I said earlier, the Russians are very fond of the court jester, which usually dances a solo with some original music not used by Petipa. Perhaps you had some of this...?

Not just the Russians -- Kent Stowell's version for Pacific Northwest Ballet has a featured role for the jester. Cannot off the top of my head remember what music he's got, though.

Martins uses one as well--and, oddly enough, it's the only Jester I have ever found effective in really being part of the larger ballet's canvas.

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And as I said earlier, the Russians are very fond of the court jester, which usually dances a solo with some original music not used by Petipa. Perhaps you had some of this...?

Not just the Russians -- Kent Stowell's version for Pacific Northwest Ballet has a featured role for the jester. Cannot off the top of my head remember what music he's got, though.

Martins uses one as well--and, oddly enough, it's the only Jester I have ever found effective in really being part of the larger ballet's canvas.

I remember this role from the telecast. The Stowell version also works quite well -- he's an ally of the tutor in the first act, and a kind of emcee in the opening of the third act, escorting the party guests and generally working traffic. It's a virtuoso role, as seems to be common, but there's a really affecting dramatic moment in act 3 -- when Odile reveals herself and Siegfried rushes out to find Odette, the jester collapses next to the queen, almost like an abandoned pet.

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The music for the jester solo in the opening scene of the ballroom act is the "Dance of the Corps de Ballet and the dwarves. Moderato assai. Allegro vivo", deleted for the '95 Petipa/Drigo revival. I like the jester. It certainly gives an extra opportunity for a soloist.

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The music for the jester solo in the opening scene of the ballroom act is the "Dance of the Corps de Ballet and the dwarves. Moderato assai. Allegro vivo", deleted for the '95 Petipa/Drigo revival. I like the jester. It certainly gives an extra opportunity for a soloist.

Thanks for the reference!

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The music for the jester solo in the opening scene of the ballroom act is the "Dance of the Corps de Ballet and the dwarves. Moderato assai. Allegro vivo", deleted for the '95 Petipa/Drigo revival. I like the jester. It certainly gives an extra opportunity for a soloist.

Thanks for the reference!

I guess if the music was originally a dance for corps and dwarves it was always a kind of "jester" piece...though I'm afraid I usually don't like the jester. Still, I do seem to have gotten used to it.

Unfortunately I have never seen Stowell's version of the ballet.

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hi ABT Fan and AlbanyGirl. Thanks so much for your responses! To answer your question, the company is/was the Ballet of the National Theater of Brno, in the Czech Republic, which is where I live. I saw one performance last night, and I will return to see a different cast on Saturday.
AlbanyGirl, I'd love to see your comments whenever you have time!
ABT Fan, your last comment is so on the money in regard to my Odette/Odile from last night. The ballerina, a visiting soloist from the Eifman Ballet in St. Petersburg (Svetlana Bjednenko), was not compelling as Odette, at least not to me. But her Odile -- wow! From the minute she appeared, I could see this was her part. That is why it was so unfortunate when she had some troubles with the fouettes... First of all, she did travel. But that was a small thing. About two-thirds of the way through the sequence, she faltered significantly enough that I was afraid she was going to fall. Someone earlier in Act III *did* fall, so who knows -- maybe that was on her mind. Anyway, when she faltered, I could hear people all around me sucking in their breath. She kept going, thank god, more or less until the point at which I think the music says you're supposed to stop. But it did seem that she ended the fouettes a few beats early, and a little clumsily.
It really was too bad, because as I said, up until then, she was a beguiling Odile. But, as you say, it's not enough to do just one part, and I think her Odette needs a lot of work. It seemed very one-note to me. She came across as martyr-like and not much else.
So that was the big downside. It might sound like a big downside, but in general I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the production. Brno is not a very big city, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But in general, I thought the standard seemed high, and I'm looking forward to seeing a different ballerina in a few days.
By the way, the little swans were great. Thanks for letting me know which they were. I'd heard to look out for little swans but never would have guessed that that's who they were!
Sasha

Oh, dear. I haven't had the time to write. I'll make some time in the next few days, Sasha. My apologies. ~ Karen

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No worries, Karen!

cubanmiamiboy -- To answer your question, in the version I saw there was no jester. Instead there was a "friend of the prince" who did what I suppose was originally some of the jester's role. Of the national dances, only the Neapolitan dance featured on pointe dancing -- I don't know whether that's typical or not.

The big surprise I found on my second viewing was what a difference the seat choice makes. Last week I sat in the third or fourth row, which is what I typically choose. I like to be able to see the expressions on their faces. This time, the close seats were sold out and I ended up in the center balcony, which is the farthest I have ever sat from the stage. I was afraid it was going to be bad, but it was amazing being able to see the swans from that view! I have a whole new appreciation now for the corps. It was really great. On the other hand, I did miss seeing all those details you get when you're up close. So I don't know how I'll choose seats next time I go to Swan Lake....

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The music for the jester solo in the opening scene of the ballroom act is the "Dance of the Corps de Ballet and the dwarves. Moderato assai. Allegro vivo", deleted for the '95 Petipa/Drigo revival. I like the jester. It certainly gives an extra opportunity for a soloist.

Thanks for the reference!

I guess if the music was originally a dance for corps and dwarves it was always a kind of "jester" piece...though I'm afraid I usually don't like the jester. Still, I do seem to have gotten used to it.

Unfortunately I have never seen Stowell's version of the ballet.

Stowell's version has some weak points (as do all) but on the main it's a solid production of a heritage work, with some truly beautiful moments. I wish that the company could afford to have it recorded for commercial distribution.

And for those of you who really love the fouettes, these are very powerful. Carrie Imler!

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What I appreciate most about the Stowell version is the fourth act: there's a long, beautiful dance for the swans and a pas de deux that balances out the second act. I've always thought of it as like the Wedding Pas de Deux in "Romeo and Juliet" as opposed to the Balcony Pas de Deux: by Act IV, their eyes have been opened.

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I've always thought of it as like the Wedding Pas de Deux in "Romeo and Juliet" as opposed to the Balcony Pas de Deux: by Act IV, their eyes have been opened.

Oh, I think you've really put a finger on it here!

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For me the most important part of SL is portraying the difference in character between Odette and Odile. Many ballerina's unfortuantely go overboard with a much to 'evil' and attacking Odile. I rather prefer a more subtle approach. Ofcourse Odile is very flirtuous, sensual and boosting confidence; for a ballerina these aspects are important to give us a showcase of her technique. The 32 fouettes are therefore (unfortunately) a part of it.

Another big aspect of SL is the corps de ballet. The 2nd and 4th act have to show us what the company has to offer; the unison of movements, the synchronization and the entire stage filled with dancers as a living scenery. I've seen quite a lot of productions (unfortunately only on film) and the Nureyev version is one of my favourite; especially in the 4th act, truly poetry in motion. Have a look at this video: POB - Swan Lake (it already starts at the beginning of act 4). The variety and great changes in formations must be quite some work for the corps de ballet to study, but if they master it, it's simply breathtaking.

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