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The premier of Kirk Peterson’s Swan Lake, performed by the Alberta Ballet at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton on March 23-24, 2012, was, simply put, a triumph—a world-class production that showcased the company’s development.
Swan Lake demands a virtuosic performance by the ballerina who must portray the innocent, loving Odette in Acts II and IV and the wicked imposter, Odile, in Act III—conflicting roles dramatized so effectively in the 2010 film Black Swan.
Alberta Ballet performed Peterson’s Swan Lake brilliantly. Opening night featured Cuban dancers Haina Gutierrez and Elier Bourzac as the Swan Queen and the Prince. Gutierrez was suitably tender and graceful as Odette and dramatic and wicked as Odile, while Bourzac danced with the precision and grace demanded of a prince. Mariko Kondo, hailing from Japan, but trained at the National Ballet School of Canada, was exquisite as the Swan Queen in her first performance of the ballet, ably partnered by Alberta favourite, Edmonton’s own Kelly McKinlay. Kondo’s brilliance, sharp as a diamond, culminating in thirty fouetté turns, in Act III, was breathtaking. Clearly, she is a star in the making.
Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maître explained in the public address that preceded the performance that most of the dancers in the production had never danced Swan Lake before, but the company performed as if they had been dancing Swan Lake for years. The corps de ballet, under the tutelage of the ballet Master and Mistress and the choreographer himself, was excellent, even though it included six students from the Alberta Ballet School who were replacing dancers who were injured or ill. The cygnets, centering on the Gibson twins, were brilliant and the Lead Swan Maidens graceful. Mark Wax seemed truly evil as the Sorcerer, Von Rothbart, who has enchanted Odette and her attendant maidens into swans.
Peterson’s new pas de quatre for four men enlivened Act III. His reconstructed pas de trois for Act I and his new pas de trois for Act III were particularly noteworthy, thanks in no small part to the technical brilliance and ballon of Yukichi Hattori on opening night, as he partnered the lovely Alison Dubsky, Asaka Homma, Nicole Caron and Tara Williamson.
Edmonton audiences were suitably appreciative, greeting the dancers’ curtain calls with standing ovations and cheers. Swan Lake proved an ideal way to celebrate the 45th anniversary of this company originally founded by the late Ruth Carse.
Peterson is no stranger to Alberta Ballet. He choreographed a stunning ballet version of Othello for the company five years ago that featured edgy solos and pas de deux for Othello and Iago. , He also helmed a sumptuous new production of Sleeping Beauty two years ago, while serving as Associate Artistic Director while Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maître choreographed for the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
A ballet veteran who spent fifteen years as Principal Dancer, Choreographer, and Ballet Master at American Ballet Theatre in New York and Artistic Director of ABT II, plus five years as Artistic Director of Hartford Ballet, Peterson has choreographed over fifty-five ballets for major American companies.
A tireless researcher, Peterson’s mission is restoring 19th-century ballets, such as Giselle, Swan Lake, and The Sleeping Beauty, to their original state. Entranced by Swan Lake from his childhood studies in New Orleans with Lelia Haller from the Paris Opera Ballet, he had long wished to resuscitate and restore this original version, now “a damaged icon” in his words, and preserve it for posterity.
Lamenting in an interview that over the years directors and choreographers have gradually eliminated precious elements of the original ballet choreographed by Petipa and Ivanov for the Maryinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, he researched archives and interviewed the rapidly diminishing cadré of dancers who had performed that original version. “Radical surgery cut out essential parts of Swan Lake’s delicate period heart,” he writes. For example, companies have omitted the romantic moment in Act II when Prince Siegfried folds the Swan Queen’s wings across her body and cradles her lovingly in his arms. They have omitted the storm scene in Act IV with its explosive music that is followed so dramatically by the rapturous music signalling the entrance of the heartbroken Prince, who has been deceived into betraying Odette by promising to marry Odile.
While restoring lost elements of the original ballet, including the mimed gestures so effective in advancing the narrative, he also recognized the development of dancers’, especially male dancers’, technical abilities. While restoring 19th-century ballet’s use of the shoulders, back, and torso for female dancers, he included more emphasis on male dancers’ ability to execute brilliant jumps, with excellent effect.
Peterson also put his own stamp on Swan Lake. While preserving the iconic swan choreography of Acts II and IV, he re-choreographed the waltz in Act I, created a moving solo for Prince Siegfried in the transition between Acts I and II, as Eric Bruhn and Rudolf Nureyev had done, and inserted a male quartet of dancers in Act III. He omitted the national dances that form part of the celebration of Prince Siegfried’s coming of age in Act III because he believes they interrupt the flow of the narrative. He retained the pas de trios for Act I and created a parallel pas de trois for Act III.
Article by: Nora Foster Stovel
posted:18 Jun 2012
Related Link: www.albertaballet.com
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