I just returned from London, where I saw the Aug. 5th performance of Swan Lake with Stepanova/Ovcharenko/Lobukhin. I won't get as technical as many you as I simply don't have the knowledge and am just a little beginner in this ballet world, but I truly did have a memorable evening.
Stepanova was stunning, what a treat to watch her dance. She made Odette and Odile, particularly Odile, truly come alive. I was sitting on the balcony so I didn't necessarily have a great view of her facial expressions, but I didn't need to as I could feel the very different emotions through her dance and movements. The contrast she was able to show between her Odette (softer, shy, in love, pained) and her Odile (sharper, playful and a tease yet devilish) was impressive. Her Black Swan was to die for. She did look like a swan throughout most of the ballet, and made it all look effortless again with her magnificent presence, technique and interpretation.
Her port de bras is delighful, and her dancing and interpretations were detailed, nuanced and fluid. I did not count her fouettes, but I do remember being stunned by them. I could have watched her dance and pirouette and jump the entire night, and she really did look like a mystical creature, elegant, captivating, sentimental and insighftul. Ovcharenko was great as well but honestly I just could not keep my eyes off Stepanova most of the time. That said, he looked as captivated and smitten by Stepanova's characters as I was.
The corps itself was also particularly stunning. I had never watched a full-length version of Swan Lake, only the shortened Balanchine one, so I truly was able to appreciate the corps here. The dancers were sharp and just sublime during the lake-side scenes. Each movement or pose held was so symmetrical and precise to the millimeter that I also found myself absorbed by it. They all truly did look like a group of swans as well.
I did find Lobukhin a bit bland, heavy and quite wobbly at times. At one point it looked like he stumbled on his own feet, although he saved it nicely, but anyways I wasn't particularly blown away by his dancing. On the contrary, I found Georgy Gusev as the fool particularly astounding. Very light on his feet, explosive jumps and steady pirouettes, and truly in his character the entire time. I honestly thought he stole the show whenever he was on stage, from my perspective and the crowd's reaction. I also enjoyed Bruna Gaglianone Cantanhede as the Neapolitan Bride, and maybe because she reminded me more of the style of dancing I'm used to as she's Brazilian and I have been to a handful of Miami City Ballet productions, where a lot of the dancers are Brazilian.
The production itself was indeed interesting, and some of you on here had warned me of the ending. I am not quite sure how to feel about it yet, again as I have no 'true' point of comparison with another full-length production. It did not bother me greatly at the time, but I don't think I like having the prince being alone on stage at the end too much. Other than that, I did find the imagery great and successfully and effortlessly linking the eerie, hazy lake scenes to the more festive and crowded palace ones.
I am very glad I went to see this, and I wished I was in London longer to see the ballet with a different cast. All in all, Stepanova and the corps de ballet were the true big stars of this ballet for me.