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Bolshoi's "Swan Lake"


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I recently have come across a video of Swan Lake by the Bolshoi, filmed in 1989 (Grigorovitch's staging), starring Alla Mikhailchenko.

I approached it with mixed feelings, but have to confess having been captivated by some of the changes introduced by Grigorovitch, notably in Act III (the palace part). I very much liked the idea of each princess being from a different country, and dressed as such (stylistically, of course), dancing her national dance in POINTE SHOES (not in character shoes as in the Kirov's version). I felt that it gave a logic to the plot that is missing in other versions (in my opinion), because the waltz with the prince came only after the princesses danced their national. Also I loved the costumes

I am wondering if this is the version currently performed by the company??? Or have they returned to the more traditional one?? Also would like to know what the critics thought about these changes, on the premiere????????

Just curious


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This was the version the company danced the last time they were in DC, just about a year ago. The direction is changing again, so I don't know whether they will stay or not.

I think it's safe to say the production was controversial. There are two ways to look at Swan Lake stagings, I think. One is that it's a 19th century ballet and it should be staged bearing that in mind. The other is that it's a score, and it should be choreographed fresh.

For those who like the Grigorovich version, it's a more contemporary reading and they like the "all dance" aspect of it, as well as the psychological approach. For those who don't, it cuts out every bit of Petipa as well as the mime and adds psychological undertones that are anachronistic. Putting the character dances on pointe changes the character of the original ballet -- not a concern if you take Approach #2 above -- because ballets of that era mixed classical and character dancing (and mime and processions).

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Silvy, it's funny that you ask this question after you inquired about how Alexei Fadeyechev fared as director of the Bolshoi :wacko: . The prospect of reviving Grigorovich's production of "Swan Lake" by the new (Iksanov-Rozhdestvensky) management in 2000, was precisely one of the main reasons why Fadeyechev decided to talk to the press. He emphasized quite strongly (also in the interview) that the idea of bringing back a "Swan Lake" dating from 1969 and present it as one of the great novelties for the coming season, was a total aberration. At that moment the Bolshoi was dancing Vasiliev's ill-fated production of the ballet, but Fadeyechev had plans to mount a new version, going back to the traditional Ivanov-Petipa.

So yes, the Bolshoi is again dancing this same Grigorovich production of "Swan Lake". I'd be curious to hear what the critics thought about it back in 1969, when Grigorovich was still reigning supreme at the Bolshoi, but I guess their comments weren't much different from ours.

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Marc, from what I've read (American critics and some British) the divide in 1969 was much the same: "Stunning! Finally, a ballet for our time! Move over Petipa/Ivanov" or "Why change Petipa when the new dances aren't as good, and why do we need a Freudian Swan Lake, isn't that what coffee bars are for?"

Editing to add an afterthought:

I'd imagine most, or at least many, dancers would like the Grigorovitch version, because there's so much dancing. In Russia, there were (and I hope still are) specially trained character dancers and it's an honorable profession. Unfortunately, elsewhere there isn't the same tradition, and often dancers without a strong technique are put in the character pieces. It gives everyone -- viewer and dancer -- the impression that character work is second rate, or not "real dancing."

Edited by Alexandra
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I came across this tape today when I was tidying the video cabinet. I haven't watched it for a while and I must say that I do enjoy the psychological aspects to the storyline although I do miss the mime and the character dances done as such, not as character on pointe. I am just glad that there are various productions that follow different concepts, a traditional Petipa/Ivanov production and a more modern interpretation. The jester in this production is interesting although I think I have read somewhere that many people dislike the 'character'. Can anyone tell me why?

Alexandra, in some Australian dance schools character is taught. My daughters attend one of those schools and are taught by a specially trained, Russian, character teacher. AND my daughters would say that character IS real dancing!

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