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Who is your favorite Odette/Odile?


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Welcome to Ballet Talk, Evelio.

I notice that you are from Miami. I hope that you will introduce yourself on the "Welcome" forum and that you'll be able to share with us your impressions, reviews, etc., of Miami City Ballet, Maximum/Gamonet, and other groups in the south Flroida dance community.

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The Feb. 2006 issue of Dance Magazine has quite a spread on Swan Lake, including an article on several different complete versions due for premiers this season: Victoria Morgan's at Cincinnati, Stanton Welch's at Houston, and Christopher Stowell's at Oregon Ballet Theatre.

There are also some fascinating comments on performing the Odette-Odile role by a number of ballerinas:

Yuan Yuan Tan (SF Ballet), who advises studying videos for ideas that suit your body.

Irina Dvorovenko (ABT), who feels the urge to cry in the last act.

Uliana Lopatkina (Kirov): "some people say that my Odile lacks eroticism, temptation, black magic. But that wouldn't be me. Evil is more dangeerous when concealed."

Svetlana Zakharova (Bolshoi); "In St. Peterburg I was taught to show Odile as a bright, beautiful seductress. But in the Bolshoi's version, Odile is more mysterious, more secretive and deceiving."

Karen Kain (National Ballet of Canada): "As a partner, Nureyev, with his emotional generosity, forced me to look into his eyes and believe in the moment."

Lauren Anderson (Houston): "When you finish the ballet, you feel like you'[ve been hit bya truck and then it backs over you two more times. But it's satisfying."

Evelyn Hart (Royal Winnepeg)

Cynthia Gregory (ABT): :) "Think about what you want to do with the role and who you want to be. And then put that out of your head and just work on getting the technique as pure and clean as possible. And then onstage, those thoughts from before will come through in your dancing."

and Wendy Whelan (NYCB): "The Balanchine one-act version is the Reader's Digest version and you don't have to have that dark side. In the Martins version, you have to develop that. It's a marathon versus a spring."

As of this date, there's nothing on the website about this issue.

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1. Agnes Letestú (on DVD)- for mee she's the Odette/Odile of our time

2 Nina Ananiashvili (on DVD) -beautiful in everthing she does, and lovely swan arms


1. Judith Simon. http://www.voiceofdance.com/hpimage/swanlakeswed.jpg

-especially for her Odette, but beautiful as Odile to

2. Marie Lindqvist. http://balletbookstore.com/ballerina/pic/lindqv01.jpg

-impressing as Odile!

3. Nathalie Nordquist. http://balletbookstore.com/ballerina/pic/nordq03.jpg

-the sweetest and lovliest Odette I've ever seen!!

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This is a hard one. I find that it helped to distinguish between several kinds of peformances ...

1) -- performances that are live as opposed to those which have been captured (and to an extent manipulated) on video. Several posters have already referred to this.

This is especially true when the seats are far away from the stage. I appreciate and remember very different things from a stage performance as compared to the closeness possible in a video performance. It's much easier to experience the entire trajectory of a characterization when I see it live, even if you lose some of the details.

2) -- seeing a dancer perform bits and pieces in gala pdds, dvd "highlights," and YouTube clips/ as contasted with watching her create, sustain, and modulate a role for an entire evening..

Many ballerinas stick in the memory in short versions. It's harder to come up with those who moved me -- and carried me along -- throughout the entire evening.


"Live" and "full-length" category/ the whole package: Fonteyn (with Nureyev, not necessarily an advantage, in the early 60s); a young Guillem (early 90s).

"Full-length video" category: Makarova with Dowell (Royal, 1982)

"Live/ highlights": Cynthia Gregory (ABT, 70s)

"Highlights on video": this changes all the time. Currently it's Plisetskaya.

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I have... how many? 12 or 15 Swan Lakes on DVD and have seen the ballet innumerable times in the theatre.

This is a hard question. The most mature, dramatic Odette/Odile is still Maya Plisetskaia, in my opinion. Gillian Murphy danced a seemless performance on the ABT DVD, that is technically speaking. Maybe the most lyrical and technically perfect second act was Alicia Alonso, whom I saw many times in the theatre.

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Odette/Odile makes or breaks a Swan Lake, and I find it far more renewing and interesting when an O/O tells me something colossal and terrible about being imprisoned, rather than if she makes a more or less aesthetic swan. As long as her 'birdiness' is drawing me away from any 'reality' into the super-hyper-unreality where this bird-woman thing makes metaphorical sense, that's fine. But she doesn't have to 'be' a swanny maiden for the prison metaphor to work. I'm thinking of why above all the perhaps 80 O/Os I've seen (live) in 20 years, Uliana Lopatkina and Tamara Rojo affected me on an entirely separate scale than any others, 'great' though many of them are at swanlike beauty or classical delicacy or aerialness etc. Lopatkina & Rojo are wholly unalike, though they have both taken their technique to that rare level where they merely use the steps to express the ideas the ballet gives to them.

Rojo is all music, a vibrantly feminine, tender, and very 'present' vision that comes and goes in different guises as her Siegfried dreams her to be - she is about as 'human' an Odette as I have ever seen. She is sexually charged in both disguises, and there is real horror in seeing such a beautiful woman enslaved, and a real urgency in one's desire for her to be released. I suppose it's a modern kind of horror.

Lopatkina is elemental, she doesn't come across as a sensate woman you might meet, but something more like the mythical soul of a nation. Her Odette seems to be resigned, her feelings muted, after centuries of enchainment. Sexual attraction, trust, faith, all these things went long, long ago. She is like one of Michelangelo's stone slaves, a ravishing form struggling in vain out of cold stone.

It matters with Rojo who her Sigfried is, because that is how she fashions her performance. It really does not matter with Lopatkina, because she would represent the permanent suffering of the damned whoever the current villain was. They both fashion their Odiles with equal care, Rojo flamboyantly to dazzle, Lopatkina, on at least one occasion, to repel. Either way, the message about evil is irresistible and neckprickling. Rojo's finale is heartbreaking because she is lucky enough to have the Royal Ballet version to dance, and one's tears just pour; Lopatkina, who is made for tragedy, is saddled with the implausible Soviet 'happy' resolution which she never appears to believe in. I wonder if Lopatkina will ever get the right ending for the story she tells in her Swan Lake, or whether she will remain trapped in artificial optimism for all time.

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[ ... ] I find it far more renewing and interesting when an O/O tells me something colossal and terrible about being imprisoned, rather than if she makes a more or less aesthetic swan.
I love this insight..

It is a tribute to Rojo and Lopatkina that, out of all the Odette/Odiles you've seen, these two dancers stand out in your memory so vividly. And that they convey the dreadful emotional complexity of imprisonment in such different ways.

Thank you.

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You are right.This is a tough question.Actually the most beautiful Odettes/odiles I've seen are: Svetlana Zakharova,Lopatkina and Lucia Lacarra.The first one I mention is the one I know better as I saw her many times and also in different roles.I'd say She has the perfect body to be a charming Odette: long legs with incredible arch,beatiful developpés no less than 180°,very thin and white skinned,very long and I have to say well used arms(as the majority of russian ballerinas do).What leaves me a little bit perplexed is her interpretation...too standard...and She's very selfish on the scene: if She's dancing a pas de deux with her partner,and for Swan lake It is often Roberto Bolle,she absolutely dances alone..Her only aim is to raise her legs up to the sky and do her nice penchés and attitudes and all of her steps but She doesn't even look at her partner or,whether she does,it is just a superficial look of circumstance.Then Lopatkina.I only saw her on YouTube so I can't really judge her properly but she's been awarded "Best Odette ever" in Russia and I have to admit that the pas de deux I saw was great and of big interpretative thickness.About Lucia Lacarra I can say almost the same.I'd like to find a good dvd with her performing Swan lake.

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The first Odette/Odile I saw was Gillian Murphy on ABT's DVD. Technically, marvelous, yet....she didn't strike me in the soul. I thought (in my youthful ignorance) that all Swan Lakes were supposed to be like that, and I held off on watching Swan Lake for a long time.

Then, quite by accident, I came across a photo of Yulia Makhalina as Odette, and that image struck me inside as 90 minutes of Gillian never could. I watched the White Act and I was left breathless, unable to move from my seat as everything I had hoped for and imagined came true. Odette, albeit silently, SPOKE to her Sigfried and her audience. The same happened as Odile. Though I didn't like Makhalina's Odile as much as I loved her Odette, I was mesmerized by both.

Lopatkina has done that to me too, Meznetseva, to a lesser degree, and, of course, Nina. They sing and mourn with their very arms and legs.

Of the older generation, I am not as picky, for they have that soul in their dancing that very few dancers now have. Ulanova, Semenova, and Plisetskaya transcend all expectations. Who cares if the legs aren't at 180 degrees? They were miles ahead of dancers now, with the pure depth of emotion.

So, after that long-winded rant :) my favorites are: Makhalina, Lopatkina, Ananishvilli, Meznetseva, Ulanova, Semenova, and Plisetskaya.

Is it odd that my favorites are mainly Vaganova trained?

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From early on my favorite Odettes were Kirov (Maryinsky) trained. Danilova was (and still is) my gold standard for the role. I don't know if the Vaganova method had much to do with her training because she only studied with her during her last year at the School. After Danilova it was Makarova and then Ananiashvilli (this Bolshoi dancer managed to sneak in!); and presently, judging by the performance I saw last year (and waiting to see many more), Veronika Part.

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Alas, I've never seen a live performance of a complete Swan Lake. :)

But I've seen several different complete versions on tape and by far the best ballerinas in the role of Odette/Odile are (in my humble opinion! :bow: ) Fonteyn, Makarova and Plisetskaya. Especially Plisetskaya--her amazing arm movements that strongly resembled a flapping wing just mesmerized Western audiences in 1959, the first time she toured with the Bolshoi Ballet outside the Soviet Union.

Lopatkina could be a great Odette/Odile but her height (5' 10") makes it a bit difficult to find a danseur to work with her (I noticed that issue with the 2006 Maryinsky Ballet performance that was released on DVD in 2007).

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I have seen many......but many....because Swan Lake is my favourite ballet. I don't like Odettes without very good extensions.I think that it is more appropriate in the style,especially in the variation of the second act and in the two pdds.Also the physical attitude is fundamental in this more than in other ballets;you need a longiline,very thin body,with very good lines(very good arch,long arms and legs...).So I don't like ballerinas such as Plisetskaya;maybe very good for a Dying Swan,but not as Odette/Odile.

Thinking of the style,the arms,the fine lines,and very long and thin body etc I would say that Lucia Lacarra is the best Odette on earth.Take a look on youtube.She has the perfect style,especially in the movements of the arms,which is quite lost nowadays or limited to a banal wing movement,as a child would do.Second place is for Zakharova,which is even better than Lacarra in the variation of second act,but hasn't got a special way of moving the arms,nor a good dramatic impact on the public.Third place for Uliana Lopatkina,which is the most moving Odette on earth now,but isn't as physically gifted as the other two ballerinas.And she is the best Dying Swan of these years.

The best Odile is hard to find.Nowadays It seems as if there is no(or a few?)ballerina who is able to give a good portrait of Odile,who must be sexy,very proud,very seductive,vamp maybe,brillant and very very snob;and NASTY!However,The best Black Swan PDD from the past is the one with Gregory-Bujones.She can really interpret the role perfectly.In the present I don't usually find special Odiles,a very convincing one is Agnes Letestu,from POB;but more about interpretation than for other reasons.

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By the way, when she dances alone Ulyana Lopatkina is probably the best Odette, in my opinion. (This is based on the 2007 DVD video release and older performances I've seen via online videos). What makes her so good as Odette is that unlike most other ballerinas, Lopatkina perfectly captures the vulnerability of the Odette character when she dances alone. The only downside is that because of her height, it makes it really difficult to find a danseur in the role of Siegfried that matches well with her to make her the overall best Odette, hence my post earlier. I wonder has she tried to dance this role with Ivan Kozlov lately?

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By the way, when she dances alone Ulyana Lopatkina is probably the best Odette, in my opinion. (This is based on the 2007 DVD video release and older performances I've seen via online videos). What makes her so good as Odette is that unlike most other ballerinas, Lopatkina perfectly captures the vulnerability of the Odette character when she dances alone.

I agree with you that Lopatkina is a very good Odette (I have only seen her on video with the Kirov), and I love her ability to make beautiful lines and arches with her body, she's so flexible! As Odile, though, I prefer Agnes Letestu with the POB, who is the most dangerous Odile I have ever seen. Her contemptuous smiles and expressions could make one's heart freeze. As Odette I missed some more warmth, though her interpretation is absolutely comitted. It's only a pity that Nureyevs Swanlake is so deadboring in any other aspect!

Someone mentioned Nathalie Nordquist from the Swedish Ballet, whom I have seen both live and on video, and I aggree that she's the most lovely Odette ever, all vulnerability and sweetness, but as Odile she's just not dangerouos enough - yet!

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One thing I LOVE about Ulyana Lopatkina as Odette is that in what some call the "Odette Variation" from Act II (or Act 1 Scene 2 as it's known in Russia), when she does the leg extensions at the beginning of the piece she has an amazing ability to stop halfway for a split second with her knees way up in the air before fully extending her leg, something that I have not seen from any other ballerina--not even the legends like Fonteyn, Alonso, Ulanova or Plisetskaya--come anywhere close to achieving.

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