Pennsylvania Ballet’s re-imagined Swan Lake

By Debra Danese for The Dance Journal | Photo credit: Alexander Iziliaev

This weekend the re-staged production of Swan Lake, under the direction of PA Ballet’s Artistic Director, Angel Corella, came to a glorious closing. Corella’s vison of the ballet was re-imagined after the traditional choreography of Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov. PA Ballet has a long running affiliation with Swan Lake having performed several renderings of the classic during its history. The company has presented a full length version, an original production commission by Christopher Wheeldon, and Balanchine’s Act II of the iconic ballet.

Swan Lake is a classic love story we can all relate to. Perhaps not the part that involves falling for a swan, but rather the theme of finding a love that can never be fulfilled. We meet Prince Siegfried, danced commendably by corps dancer Jack Thomas, during his 21st birthday celebration. The queen (Valerie Amiss) arrives to remind him that he must choose a bride at the ball the next evening. Though only a small part, Amiss was both elegant and appropriately dismayed with her son. She was also stunningly costumed by scenic and costume designer, Benjamin Tyrrell. Unhappy about his youthful days coming to an end, Prince Siegfried retreats to the lake where he encounters the beautiful Swan Queen, Odette. Odette explains she has been cursed to live the life of a swan by day and a human by night. The only hope of breaking the spell is a declaration of true love.

Corella’s casting and choreography of the production showed a great understanding of his company’s technical assets. The principal roles showcased the dancer’s strengths with great effect. Set to music by P.I. Tchaikovsky, Corella’s staging managed to emphasize the quiet subtleties with as much care as the bolder, more obvious musical crescendos. Musical Director and Conductor, Beatrice Jona Affron, must also be commended here for leading the PA Ballet Orchestra in their interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s score.

At the Sunday matinee performance, Oksana Maslova was tasked with the theatrical and technical role of Odette/Odile. Maslova’s waif-like appearance was well suited for the delicate gestures that are so critical in this part. Her arched shoulder blades, fluttering fingertips and light beating of the feet gave the white swan refined nuances. Maslova dramatically changed her persona when she changed her tutu to portray the beguiling, Odile.  Maslova is a powerful and precise technician. Her strength and flexibility were on full display. The only moment that seemed to unnerve her was during the grueling thirty two fouettes where she appeared slightly unsteady and off balance. Another outstanding performance was by Etienne Diaz in the role of Benno. Several solo variations highlighted his masterful jumping and turning abilities.

It is visually rewarding when all the components of a production come together to complement each other. Swan Lake did this beautifully. Tyrell chose deep color combinations and textures to costume the party scenes. This seemed to intentionally enhance the detailed scenic designs. These, combined with Corella’s smart and creative staging, made for a magical, mystic performance.

About Debra Danese

Debra graduated with a degree in dance from the University of the Arts and also holds a B.A. in Arts Administration. She is accredited at the Master Level with the National Registry of Dance Educators. Debra has performed in Europe, Tokyo, Canada, and the Caribbean. She teaches and choreographs world-wide and has been an international guest artist in Switzerland, England, and Slovakia. Debra has been an Artist in Residence on five occasions in Norway where she showcased full length dance productions at the acclaimed Nordland Theatre. She has also presented an original dance production at the Elspe Festival in Germany. Debra has been featured in Dance, Dancer and Dance Teacher Magazines for her work in dance education. Additionally, she has been a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life Magazine since 2010.

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1 Comment

  1. As a season subscriber, I attended a Friday 11 am performance of Swan Lake, and sat in the first row – where I could see every nuance. The dancers all had animated expressions along with their dancing precision, adding to the poignant story. In her 32 fouette finale as Odile, this performance’s ballerina traveled perilously close to the edge of the stage, but I blame the Academy of Music’s raked stage. (At the Vaganova Ballet School in Russia, they train in studios that were built with raked floors, to prevent the inevitable disorientation of its forward gravity pull.)

    I particularly liked the extra solo dance (which I had never seen done before) for the evil magician, Von Rothbart, danced superbly by Austin Eyler, a Philadelphia native trained locally in Narberth, and now a PAB apprentice. Kudos to Angel Corella for promoting from within, including casting Aleksey Babayev, a corps member, as Siegfried.

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