In this case the swan doesn’t have to say anything. Rather, Odette lets her 32 fouettes do the talking. Cincinnati Ballet in collaboration with the BalletMet Columbus perform Swan Lake this weekend at the Aronoff Center.
It’s a familiar tale of boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Evil gets in the way, but love triumphs over all.
Based on Russian folktales, this classic ballet is one for the ages. Sometimes the classics are something you have to be in the mood for; it doesn’t always seem as fun or hip as the contemporary kool-aid. Certainly not the case here. Like pulling Dickens - ok, not Dickens - but pulling Hemingway, Austen, or Twain off the shelf, all it takes is a light dusting before you're absorbed in the tale.
Prince Siegfried is celebrating his birthday when we begin, and it’s clear as he enters into adulthood, picking a wife is his first call of duty. Most of the eligible gals in the neighborhood don’t catch his eye. Instead, it’s Odette a swan by day and lady by night (played by Janessa Touchet) who he desires. Too bad she's been cursed by a spell from the evil Von Rothbart. That name even sounds evil.
The first two acts set up the love between the Prince and Odette. Then, comes the heart break. Following intermission, guests arrive at the palace for a costume ball. Siegfried’s momma played by the lovely Victoria Morgan pushes him to dance with the ladies. He tries, but pipes back, “Ma, I found the love of my life, and sorry but it’s none these girls.”
Patric Palkens as Prince Siegfried and Janessa Touchet as Odette
In between the action that furthers the plot, I can't help but comment on the circular choreographic formation at the ball. It reminds me of a high school dance, except there are now show offs doing the worm. I particularly loved the Spanish themed dance, a mix of power in both the choreography and the music. There are lots of encouraging smiles and nods on the sidelines as everyone takes their turn in the limelight.
Eventually Von Rothbart arrives with his daughter disguised as Odette. She is dressed in black versus the angelic white costume of the true Odette. Unfortunately the Prince doesn't pick up on the symbolic color change until it's too late. As an audience member, however, I enjoyed the boy in love because a boy in love can jump. I’d like to see Patric Palkens test his vert against some NBA all stars.
We pick up by the lake in Act IV, and the lakeside set is magnificent. I wish I could take it home and plaster it on my bedroom wall. Though it’s apparent throughout, it’s bluntly evident in this act why we are lucky to have the addition of BalletMet ballerinas. The choreography involved in the corps is quite technical and to perform Swan Lake to its full potential, it requires a lot of dancers with fabulous technique. On pointe and hitting their marks is what you get from the beautiful swans. Ducks may fly together but swans glide with grace.
After Odette is reassured by her prince, they reunite with some magical pas de deux action. Of course that’d be too easy. The evil Von Rothbart tells Siegfried he must marry his daughter, Odile. Like the good fella he is, the Prince cannot betray his love or his heart and decides death by frozen lake is better than a marriage of misery. He chooses wisely because it breaks the spell and allows him and Odette to live happily ever after, in heaven. It also frees the rest of the swan maidens.
I almost teared up at the end. The scene is surreal with the falling snow, white swans, and love birds lit up by candles in the background. Heartstrings were officially tugged. Those snowflakes even made me less angry about the cold weather, and that’s an impressive feat after I’ve been cursing the frigideratures this week.
I wanted to see Swan Lake because it’s a classic, and I believe classics build the foundations of a well rounded arts patron. Turns out they’re also really good. I’d fall over that cliff any day.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Cincinnati Ballet website: www.cballet.org. Performances run through Sunday, Oct. 27.
Photo credits: Peter Mueller, All Rights Reserved.