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Kuldelka's Swan Lake

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Oh don't get me started on Kudelka's Swan Lake! Just kidding... Personally, I wouldn't want to see it more than once. If you are one who believes the classics should not be messed with (sort of like I am), than this version feels like a bit of a nightmare. He has made the tone and mood very dark. The 1st act is mostly an all-male corps. There are mechanical swans. The lake looks more like a muddy marsh. Don't get me wrong there are some redeeming qualities. The sets for the 3rd Act and quite stunning, as are certain costumes. A lot of the 2nd Act, and the black swan pdd stays true to the Petipa choreography, and of course the dancers always do a wonderful job- there are lots of opportunities to showcase the company's talent in this ballet.

If you haven't seen Jewels, you really must! No matter where your tastes lie, you will deffinately enjoy it. Each section (Emeralds, Rubies, Diamonds) has its own distinct personality yet they are linked by Balanchine's musicality and style. I'm very excited about seeing it again! It's hard for me to recommend it over Tristan and Isolde though, since that will be a world premiere. Have you seen any of John Alleyne's other works? If you liked them, you will probably like Tristan and Isolde. I'd also suggest it if you prefer ballets with a narrative. It's always exciting to see a new ballet, however it's more risky than seeing an established favourite like Jewels.

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Kudelka claims “every classic needs to be rethought with new logic and powerful archetypes to make it moving and relevant for a new generation.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, so what does he do to my Swan Lake? Kill off everybody in the ballet! How will the next great dance maker at the National Ballet of Canada revise Swan Lake if all the characters have perished? Tinkering with a classic is lazy ballet making; very much like adding “II” to a classic movie. More often than not it reeks of the very same stench-the BO of recycling someone else’s work of art for a quick buck.

If you suffered through Sabrina II, The Thomas Crown Affair II, or Robin Hood à la Kevin Costner, you know where I’m coming from. Some things you cannot improve upon. Some things hold up to the toughest critic of all: Time. Tampering with a classic to make it relevant for a new generation is 100% pure bull. The number one reason ballet companies redo classics is because the costumes cannot hold up to the toughest critic of all! Desmond Heeley’s tutus would have been 32 years old had Kudelka used them to dress down his swans.

The original Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) proves my point best of all. Fifty-three years of evolution in filmmaking could not come close to the spirit, adventure and romance of the original. The theme of Robin Hood from 1938 is still relevant for today—61 years later. “It’s A Wonderful Life” is another classic example. It’s still moving for a new generation. Things haven’t changed all that much over the decades, or the centuries.

If Kudelka thinks killing off everybody with a flood will make his Swan Lake the definitive Swan Lake—he is dead wrong. The straw of father time has already sucked his Swan Lake bone dry. Burp! Bon appétit Father Time. Here...you better chew on this antacid tablet. All those “powerful archetypes” might give you indigestion. Remember when Coca-Cola thought NEW would taste better than CLASSIC? Reinventing something purely for the sake of reinventing is an insult to its creator. More often than not there is only one motivation behind all this reinventing: greed. In Kudelka’s case, it’s 100% pure ego.

I’m not suggesting no one should ever redo a ballet: Just not a classic! Too many people apply the word “classic” to something mediocre or something just very good. One should only apply the word “classic” to something of the highest standard. If you cannot top it or at the very least come close, I do not want to see it. Kudelka’s Swan Lake is not a classic.

The magic of designer Santo Loquasto will no doubt dupe many a critic into giving Kudelka’s two million dollar Swan a big thumbs up. As usual, his sets and costumes were candy for the eye and soul. If you’re going to spend $1.4 million on sets and costumes, they better blow you away. My only criticism with the costumes were those weird queen-sized headdresses shaped like genitalia. Mr. K. could have saved the NBoC $1.4 million by squeezing another season out of Heeley’s tutus. Considering his Swan Lake was about a decaying civilization; would not the time-ravaged tutus of Bruhn’s Swans been more apropos?

From my view of the stage, Kudelka gave much too much stage time to the male dancers. Their gangbang of a wench did nothing to move the story. Swan Lake is the classic black and white escapist ballet. Ballet fans come to escape inside a dream world made of blowing mist, pristine ballerina and dazzling white tutu. Ballet fans come to escape inside the beauty of man’s most beautiful creation: the ballerina! Kudelka somehow managed to take the Swan out of Swan Lake even though in his version the Prince actually falls in love with a Swan!

In the original, the prince falls for a half swan, half woman, condemned by a sorcerer to live as a swan during the day and woman at night. Prince and Swan Queen commit suicide to break the spell of the evil Von Rothbart and live happily forever in the afterlife. If you were going to tweak my ballet, it would have made more sense to defeat Von Rothbart by having the prince sacrifice his human form to live the rest of his earthly existence as a swan. Kudelka could have sent everyone home happy by having the swan mates take flight with a flotilla of beautiful cygnets in tow; instead, he gives us death, death and more death. If Kudelka possessed some imagination he would have dressed down his Swans in Heeley’s tutus and then dressed them up in Loquasto’s tutus for a happy ending. The costume change would have brought everyone in the Hummingbird Centre to their feet!

All the death and sex siphoned out what little love Kudelka poured into his Swan Lake making the entire ballet little more than an exercise in gymnastics. The way Kudelka makes ballet; his title should be Funeral Director—Not Artistic Director! Better for him to embalm corpses rather than force a live audience to sit through another of his dark ballets.

The original Swan Lake, choreographed by Julius Reisinger, was anything BUT a classic. It premiered in 1877 and laid the proverbial ugly duckling’s egg! Eighteen years later, Lev Ivanov and I breathed new choreography into the ballet as a tribute to its composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Our version created bravos galore and has for the most part survived 105 years. Survival of a classic depends upon historians. Some like to alter history. Some even like to alter the spelling of names. In the 94/95 yearbook and Swan Lake souvenir program, the NBoC spelled Tchaikovsky with a “w” (Tchaikowsky). The (w) spelling has also mysteriously seeped into other NBoC editions. Another mystery is how the “after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov” vanished from Kudelka’s version of Swan Lake. Under choreography, the souvenir program credits Kudelka and Kudelka alone. For Erik Bruhn’s Swan Lake, the National gave proper credit to its original creators.

There is but one reason to see Kudelka’s Swan Lake: Greta Hodgkinson! Few pleasures in life come close to the pleasure of watching this alabaster bathing beauty swimming in her pool of music. If ever there was a ballerina born to be a swan, it’s the strikingly beautiful Greta Hodgkinson. No man, beast, or even a eunuch could possibly resist the bewitching charms of this ballerina siren all a glow in a fine sheen of dew. Fondu-pirouettes will do that to you. Look at her go! 4, 5, 6, swirl ballerina swirl! 9, 10, 11, whirl ballerina whirl! 14, 15, 16, twirl ballerina twirl! 19, 20, 21, go Greta go! 24, 25, 26, steal the show! You’re almost there! 30, 31, 32, you did it! She is the ice queen no more! I melted under her bewitching spell!! Greta Hodgkinson shoots rays and rays and rays of stage charisma!!!

It’s no wonder Aleksandar Antonijevic (Siegfried) fell head-over-heals in love at first sight with Greta Hodgkinson twice! First as the virtuous Odette and then again as the evil Odile!! As for Aleksandar’s silent acting: Yes he has come a long way! Though he is still far too effeminate.

If Kudelka lived during my era, his title would have been Program Hawker of the Russian Imperial Ballet! Lev and I are very much looking forward to having him join us. Assuming, of course, he’s accepted into the National Ballet of Heaven. It is my misfortune that my superiors have assigned me to be Kudelka’s Muse. No matter how much I try to inspire him nothing gets through that thick head of his!

This version of Swan Lake is only worth viewing one time. Twice—if you have a crush on Greta Hodgkinson! Performance of Dancers: 17/20. Story: 5/20. Choreography: 14/20. Ballet Magic: 10/20. Sets and Costumes: 18/20. Rating: 64/100.

Note: Okay, Marius Petipa did not review the above. Michael Goldbarth takes full responsibility for every word of the above review. But if Marius Petipa did happen to critique Kudelka’s Swan Lake, I like to think his review would have read very similar to mine!

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Guest brianne

i would like to see it for myself. everyone i know has said bad things.

but i dont want to pay full price to see it. last year for my birthday i took my boyfriend, and our friends to see the mixed rep. of paquita, third act of sleeping beauty and a modern piece which i cant remember the name of. i didnt mind spending the money on that, it cost about $350 for four tickets but i knew that it should be good.

i know what i am getting into here, so hopefully i will be able to get those good old rush tickets for $20.

now just to find someone to go with me.....


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The rush tickets are $30 now, still a good deal. For students and seniors you can get whatever seats aren't yet sold. Another good thing about rush tickets is that you can check the casting schedule before deciding what day to go. It's worth seeing at least once, if only for the wonderful dancers (NOT the production that's for sure!). Good luck!

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I respect your feelings abou not liking Swan Lake, but I have to say that I think Kudelka did a brilliant job. It is hard to mess up a ballet when you have such great dancers at your finger tips.

I find that the set was wonderful. It wasn't too distracting (as I find some ballets are) so you could really focus on the dancing.

I could see that this ballet wouldn't be a good one for your youngsters to see. It requires a huge passion for ballet. This isn't your typical ballet that will please everyone.

Swan Lake is performed wonderfully by the dancers. I really loved the corps work. It must be hard to stay so beautiful and alert during all the variations.

This is a definite must see if you are a fan of Swan Lake.

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One of the nice things about this board, sparklesocks, is that sooner or later you'll find someone to back up your take on one thing or another. Of course, the opposite also holds. :)

Welcome to BalletTalk! I anticipate that you'll join the growing NBoC contingent. Why don't you stop by our Welcome Page and introduce yourself? :) We'd love to know about your ballet experiences.

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