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I have more complaints, but I will move on to what I thought was the clear A+ of this production: the Russian dance. I am always baffled as to why more companies don't stage a Russian vignette, as the music is gorgeous, but for whatever reason it is often omitted. So I feel that this production gets points just for having a Russian dance. And what a dance! It was so inventive. Stephanie Chen Gundorf, as the Russian princess, was spectacular in embellished black shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and a velvety looking red headpiece with straps that fastened below her eyes. The men were similarly striking, wearing long crimson skirts and going shirtless. But it was what they did that was truly fantastic! Every time the music reached a crescendo, it was accented in some way, but never in the same way twice: once it was Gundorf hitting the crest of her leap, another time she was being tossed into the air, and I particularly like the moment when she jumped into the air, showed us a gorgeous arm, then each of the men followed behind her in a slightly different pose. It reminded me of Matryoshka dolls opening up before me. I rarely shout "bravi," especially when I am part of an audience where no one else is doing it, even for the leads. But after seeing these dancers deliver on three consecutive nights, I couldn't resist!

I also enjoyed the Italian dance quite a bit, which I twice saw performed by Ida Praetorius. She was wonderfully sly in this role. In general, I had been nervous about all four national dances being on pointe (because the Grigorovich version does that, IMO not very well). But in general, I liked these dances. The one exception was the all-female Hungarian dance, which wasn't bad, but in my view it pales next to the more traditional version of this dance.

Kent Stowell's version for Pacific Northwest Ballet uses the score for the Russian variation in a kind of danse du ventre that's called a "Persian Dance" (the entirety of the production is shifted closer to the east than the usual medieval German court, so there are several tells in the scenery and costumes) It's a problematic choice (I've gone on and on about it in the PNB form, so won't repeat here) that needs a really strong performer -- I would have liked to see what he might have done with a more conventional approach.

And I think everyone should do Ashton's Neopolitan dance. Period.

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I entirely agree with Sasark about the video at the beginning - it's wonderful how it seems to pull you into the heart of something truly mysterious. I saw a couple of the performances last week and I've finally decided that the least irritating approach to Hubbe's handling of the story - quick flashback at the beginning, lots of plotting going on without any explanation, ending looking disastrous but maybe inconclusive - is to imagine that this is Part 2 of a longer saga (The Game of the Swan Kingdom or something): you've missed Part 1 and the flashback is like the little resume you get while the opening credits roll - now we're 'two months later' perhaps and you just have to work out who is who as it goes along. And perhaps the ending isn't the final word - there's Part 3 still to come and maybe Siegfried will escape from Odile's clutches and find Odette again. Anyone got the box set?

Apart from that little fantasy... I saw the Dorger/Birkkjær partnership and also had another look at Baldwin/Kaas. I'd been really looking forward to Dorger after seeing her in Etudes and I was not disappointed - her dancing is big and generous and she fills out every phrase: she's SAB trained and I kept thinking how I'd love to see her in the 2nd movement of Symphony in C and also in Jewels. She still looks a bit unfinished but there's a hint of grandeur in what she does (especially as Odette) and with the right coaching and careful casting she could be quite something. She did the pas de trois in the other performance I saw and I remembered how much I'd liked her in a solo in Bayadere a couple of years ago - she has that rare ability to make you believe that's she's not thinking about technique at all, just having a simply lovely time doing these wonderful steps and sharing her happiness with all of us. In the same act on that night Andreas Kaas brought even more eloquence to Siegfried's Erik Bruhn solo than when I saw him a month ago, so for a time at least I was quite prepared to forget all my reservations about the production and just enjoy the dancing.

The other dancer I must mention was Gudrun Bojesen leading the Hungarian dance - pure class.

Jon Axel Fransson has just been nominated for a big prize for his performances in this run. I'd guess it's mostly for his Rothbart - he was the first cast - but he's also been an impressive Benno.

(And by the way, Sasark, I had a look round and thought you'd have been fine in jeans!)

And one more thing - it's amazing to be in a theatre where you can't see the front cloth properly until they close the auditorium doors, because the setting sun is shining directly on to it; and if you look out from your seat then, you get a view straight out on to the open harbour. S'wonderful.

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