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National Ballet of Latvia - Swan Lake

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National Ballet of Latvia in Swan Lake at Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on 30/7/02

A very enjoyable evening. The company was lovely (according to its web site, the best ballet company in the CIS after the Kirov and the Bolshoi) - with a nice unity of style and look about most of the dancers. I especially noticed their very graceful arms. I was quite surprised at how thin some of the men were. I don't know if this is because I am more used to seeing 'healthy' modern dancers or because the NBL's dancers really are thinner than usual.

Although this production of Swan Lake is new (it was premiered in Riga earlier this year), it is quite traditional; as far as any production of Swan Lake with a happy end can be called traditional! In the court scenes, the courtiers' costumes set this Swan LAke in the 18th century. Unfortunately the frills on some of the women's costumes and their hats made them look like they were wearing cabbage leaves on their arms and heads! Also, Siegfired's costume wasn't 18th century at all, but the usual tights and top. The swan costumes, on the other hand, were beautiful. Long (but not floppy) snow white tutus with a minmial feather head-dress!

The best act was Act 2. Both because of the corps de ballet, but especially because of Julia Gurevich who danced Odette-Odile. She was a magical swan - just from her arms and head movements, she convinced why she was frightened of Siegfried. And you only needed to look at the spooky Rothbart to understand why she would be frightened of him too. She was excellent as Odile too - very extroverted and she seemed to manage the foutees (I wasn't counting actually) and any other technical challenge with ease. In contrast, Siegfried (Alex Ibsenevich) was unremarkable and his dancing seemed a bit underpowered.

Act 4 was very strange. The corps disappeared half way through and the fight was only between Rothbart and Siegfried with no one else on stage. After Siegfried defeated Rothbart, Odette came in wearung what seemed like a nightgown and bed cap (which I assume symbolised her change from swan back to woman). The end. Very odd and not convincing.

The only major con - taped music! but overall a lovely evening.

This is my first review, and I found it was much harder to write down my thoughts rather than just think them.

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Thank you very much for posting this! It's hard to write that first review -- but you did a great job, GWTW. I love the internet. How else would people in at least a dozen countries know about a Latvian company dancing in Tel-Aviv!!!!!

I think you gave a very good sense of the production, and thank you for that. Isn't it odd to set "Swan Lake" in the 18th century, one of the least Romantic of all centuries!!! Helgi Tomasson's for San Francisco Ballet uses the same time period.

It doesn't sound like an ideal performance -- with a lackluster Siegfried and a soggy ending -- but it seems that there was something to enjoy in the evening. A good corps and a magical swan helps :D

I hope you'll post again. I don't think there is much ballet in Israel; it's more a modern dance country. Am I wrong?

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I saw the NBL a few years ago in Edinburgh doing The Sleeping Beauty.

It too was a very traditional interpretation (kinda 'dusty' even!) but they (mostly again, the women) performed with energy and spirit which I think is important in the classics. You don't after all want to get the feeling the dancers are just 'going through the motions', you want to think that they are doing each performance as if it was their first, and as if it was the first time the audience were seeing the choreography and hearing the music.

I know what you mean though about the dancers' physiques. They all seemed very tall to me, and the men were indeed quite skinny. An unusual company! But fun to watch.

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I'm from Latvia (born there), so this is very interesting for me! :) Have they gone on tours anywhere in the US? Are there any videotaped performances?

By the way, I've seen their Swan Lake several times (although several years ago). Inese Dumpe was very expressive too!

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