Clumsily Contrived Alterations From The Traditional Choreography Reduce The Expected Amount Of Excitement From This Yet Well-Danced Classic Ballet.
25 March 2012
Filmed with videotape at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington (Kennedy is seen in a brief excerpt before the work opens stressing the importance of "the ahts"), for the Public Broadcasting System series: DANCE IN America, before a live audience, this American Ballet Theatre version of SWAN LAKE utilises some new music, and fresh choreography created by veteran dancer Kevin McKenzie. The piece suffers substantially during its crucial fourth act that, despite top-flight use of colour, lighting and sets, is contracted to a mere ten minutes. This is clearly the most serious weakness of a rendition that, turning the coin, incorporates effective employment of mime, notably enacted by Georgina Parkinson (Queen Mother) and Angel Corella (Prince Siegfried). A controversial addition to the standard Ivanov/Petipa choreographic pages is application of dance during the ballet's prologue. As counterbalance to some barely tolerable alterations are the deftly proficient performance of Corella, the vast technical skill of Gillian Murphy (Odette/Odile), and Herman Cornejo's splendid dancing as Benno, each of whom impresses with well-executed lifts, jumps, complete extensions and balance, as well as total control of line and spine much above the accepted standard. Patently a vehicle for the brilliant Murphy, the film is encumbered by an unfortunate continuity breakup midway, comprised of some redundant plot explication given by Kennedy's daughter Caroline, in addition to brief interviews with McKenzie, Murphy, and Corella. A visual delight, the ballet is filmed in 1:16 widescreen ratio, accompanied by excellent audio quality. McKenzie is well-known for his fondness of cutting dance classics, most notably here, as mentioned, during Act III's final episode at the lake, unfortunate in the event as ballet mistress Parkinson was trusting upon her drilling of the corps. Murphy is granted the right to perform the emblematic 32 fouettés as Odile and does so with ease, adding some multiples among them. Seldom have these been completed in so expert a fashion! A nonsensical production decision to incorporate mid-work cast interviews is matched by the interpolation of Rothbard (Marcello Gomes) into Act III, along with a disarranged sequence during the same Act wherein national dances precede the Dance of the Princesses. Classical Imperial stylistics seem to go begging throughout, manifestly not a part of McKenzie's plan for SWAN LAKE. Nonetheless, Murphy and Corella display virtually perfect phrasing for the scoring of Tchaikowsky, with Corella's lifts of Odile perfectly completed. He also dances Nureyev's Act I insertion with a good deal of feeling, depicting Siegfried's desire to find a suitable mate. However, cuts for Act IV from his search for Odile amid the Swan Maidens, and the popular Dance of the Swans are especially damaging to the ballet, bringing about an artistic crisis in a version that must be classed as a beginning level interpretation, one that is cobbled together with some satisfying balletic action.
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