Saturday, January 17, 2015

Two Swan Lakes

It may be because of the documentary Ballerina (see no.5 on this post), but I've long been fascinated with the Mariinsky Ballet and its dancers.  That's why my first real ballet going experience was Giselle with Diana Vishneva when she was guesting with ABT two years ago.  And that's why I saw the Mariinsky perform Swan Lake at BAM twice this week!

At first, I had only bought tickets to the Thursday (1/15) performance because I thought it was the only one I could make, but then when I saw that Ulyana Lopatkina was dancing on the day after, I cancelled my existing plans (with some guilt) and bought myself a ticket.

I went to Thursday night's performance with my Friend Ballet Teacher (FBT) because my boyfriend, who was originally supposed to go with me, had last minute work stuff come up.  Our seats were great--balcony front, slightly side, but still with a very good view.  My boyfriend's ditching of me (heh) actually turned out to be a fortuitous thing, as I had a lot of fun and learned a lot talking about the ballet with FBT.

Thursday night's performance starred Viktoria Tereshkina as Odette / Odile and she was amazing.  FBT and I were so captivated by her performance.  Her arms and the way she used her head was phenomenal, and very distinctive (FBT was like, it's like she has no bones!).  I felt like her dancing had a lot of personality and she definitely embodied the characters.  My favorite act of the ballet is definitely Act II (the Prince encountering Odette and the Swans), and I was tearing up at how beautiful some of Tereshkina's moments were.  There were parts where she just melted into the Prince and I was like ::ugly cry face in my seat because it's all too beautiful::.  Also her Odette was so different from her Odile, it was a really successful transformation.  When she was dancing Odile, I felt like I could see talons growing on her hands because of the way she used her wrists and fingers.

The joker (Vladislav Shumakov) was also amazing.  His dancing was so effortless and technically incredible in his jumps and turns.  I know not everyone likes this flashy role, but it was fun and so superbly danced on this night.  Whatever, maybe my tastes are not so sophisticated!

The prince (danced by Vladmir Shklyarov) didn't really do it for me.  I think it's partly because the role really has no substance to it; he's basically there to partner.  But his acting was so unconvincing and flat.  It just felt like he was going through the gestures.  Like when he was reaching out with his arm, it just felt really vague.  Who or what was he reaching out to and why?  FBT also said he had a slightly strangely shaped body.  That sounds mean, but it was weirdly distracting.

I went as a singleton to Friday night's performance.  Because I bought the tickets later, my seats were not so great.  I was all the way at the top of the balcony and my view was almost obstructed by the poles on BAM's lighting structure.  

An aside on audience behavior.  I guess because I was so high up, I noticed the audience more than on Thursday.  WHY does BAM allow late seating, and why do people think it's appropriate to get up and wander while the ballet is happening?  And oh my god, there were a bunch of parents with children.  There was this guy who was freaking chatting with his young daughter throughout the first and second act.  I was SO ANGRY.  I kept shooting them dirty looks, but they were too far away to see.  Yes, they were across the aisle in a whole different section of seating and I could hear them.  :-|  If you don't teach your children how to act appropriately in these situations, then maybe you shouldn't bring them.

ANYWAY.  Lopatkina was the main reason I was there that Friday and boy did she deliver.  It was really interesting to see how differently she danced the roles from Tereshkina.  Lopatkina is very tall and long; her lines seemed to go on forever.  I felt like Tereshkina was very girlish in her portrayal, while Lopatkina was very womanly (of course, she is older).  Lopatkina was so elegant and regal in her white swan, and seemed so classically perfect.  Tereshkina was almost "quirky" in hindsight and comparison.  Again, I teared up during Act II because of how beautiful it was.  There was this moment where she did these beats at her ankle and I couldn't breathe it was so perfect.   Also, there were moments when she brought her arms behind her where I felt like they had turned into feathers and she would float away.  She was very ethereal in her white swan.

Her black swan was again more "womanly" to me than Tereshkina's.  I felt that Tereshkina's black swan was delightfully naughty and charming.  Like, it's not her fault she's bad, she just wants to have fun!  Whereas when Lopatkina first entered with Rothbart in Act III, I felt a shock and thought, "That is a dangerous woman." 

There were a few bobbles this night.  One of the female soloists in the Act I pas de trois fell and went off stage, so it became a pas de deux.  But it happened so fast and smoothly, that you might not even have really realized if you didn't know better.  And the jester on this night (Yuroslav Baybordin) fumbled a bit at the end of his big crazy sequence of turns, but was still great (although maybe a touch less great than Shklyarov the night preceding).  The prince was better this night.  While again, the role just really is kind of flat, Yevgeny Ivanchenko did a better job of giving him some emotion and motivation.

Of course, the fabled Mariinsky corps on both nights were beautiful.  Their formations were so precise.  Really incredible to see all of the swans moving together in such perfect unity.  

Last random thoughts: I have to admit that I'm not so into the character dances.  I kind of wanted to go back to the main story!  The Spanish dance was pretty cool though.  Oh, and the costumes were fantastic.  I loved the ombre dyed skirts and dresses.  And maybe I would like a sad ending more than this happy one where they defeat Rothbart, but I didn't dislike the happy ending.  Oh, and I thought the orchestra sounded better on Friday than Thursday, when there were parts that I thought their pacing was off (and not just during the dancing, but during the overtures as well).

I am a lucky duck to have seen both nights.  So much incredible dancing and beauty.

BAM | Swan Lake Jan 15-23.

Oh yeah, they're doing Ratmansky's Cinderella too (Jan 17-20), but I think that production looks really ugly so I didn't buy tickets, even though I did want to see Vishneva dance again.  

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