Title: Review: Mariinsky Ballet’s Swan Lake dancers poetry in motion
Author: Michael Crabb
Date: March 2, 2011
However dazzling its stars, the rock bed of any great classical ballet company is its female corps. When it comes to the poetry of motion the women of St. Petersburg’s mighty Mariinsky Ballet are unsurpassed and rarely equalled.
Veteran prima Uliana Lopatkina, who will dance on Friday and Saturday in the Mariinsky Ballet at the Sony Centre.
This was clearly evident at the Sony Centre on Tuesday night as the venerable troupe returned to Toronto after a lamentable 19-year absence – it was then known as the Kirov – with its heirloom production of Swan Lake.
The ballet’s waterside acts as choreographed in 1895 by Lev Ivanov are masterworks of late 19th-century Russian classicism. The collective expressiveness of the corps is as indispensable to the overall effect as the dancing of the principal leads. No other moments in Russian ballet – other perhaps than the famous “Kingdom of the Shades” scene from La Bayadère, which the Mariinsky performed in Ottawa last month – matches them.
To watch this superlatively trained ensemble – one that can quickly recover from an unlucky swan’s early opening night fall – is to be reminded why old ballets still can move modern hearts. Tuesday’s standing ovation was surely as much for those admirable women as for any featured performer.
Although we’ve seen a smattering of Mariinsky dancers in local “Stars of the 21st Century” galas, it’s so long since the company danced here that except for a few of the character artists, it’s like a whole new troupe
For what one hopes will be the first of more frequent Toronto visits, the Mariinsky has brought some 70 of its roughly 200 members – the rest are dancing this week at their home theatre – including such long-serving ballerinas as the much-acclaimed Uliana Lopatkina and younger stars like Victoria Tereshkina and Vladimir Schklyarov, who led Tuesday’s cast.
The former, in the dual Odette/Odile role, excelled in the technical minefield of Act 3. The latter proved an engagingly sincere and ardent prince throughout.
The Mariinsky’s Swan Lake, although derived from the 1895 Petipa-Ivanov, St. Petersburg version with which western ballet fans are most familiar, includes revisions wrought in 1950 by former company director Konstantin Sergeyev.
The story is essentially what we’re used to. A handsome prince falls in love with the bewitched swan maiden, Odette. If he swears eternal devotion, the evil Rothbart’s spell will be broken. Prince Siegfried obliges but is later deceived by Odette’s Act 3 doppelganger, Odile. The consequences of his unintentional betrayal are usually tragic but Sergeyev, in accord with Soviet demands, provided a hokey happy ending. Good vanquishes evil, as rarely happened in the USSR.
Never mind the variances. This is still a gripping Swan Lake, dramatically focused and lovingly danced. It might have been even more compelling if the sounds from the pit had matched the poetry on stage. The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony under the direction of St. Petersburg veteran conductor, Pavel Bubelnikov, was barely serviceable and often distressingly wayward.