Posed for us since Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan and pecking at us from the walls of the Colorado Convention Center, the question remains: which swan are you? Are you the shivering, fragile white swan, Odette? Or are you the scary, sexy Odile—the black swan, passionate and intense?
Friday evening found me happily seated in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House ready for the opening night performance of the Colorado Ballet’s Swan Lake. The overture started and it must have been the combination of the music, the scent of perfume-saturated women around me and rosin from the dancers’ pointe shoes and the leftover buzz from the mango marg from dinner, but I was shaking with excitement. The curtain lifted and Act I: Scene I burst from the stage in swirling skirts and glowing sets of Prince Siegfried’s courtyard on his birthday. The dancers sailed through the scene, and Prince Siegfried (Alexei Tyukov) turned me on to my new favorite ballet move, a pirouette à la seconde (a turn where one leg is parallel to the floor and you hold it at ninety degrees while you turn on the ball of your standing leg. Ol’ Sieg cranked out maybe ten. Really impressive.) Even though it was his birthday, and amidst all the festivities, the poor guy’s mother just wouldn’t stop talking about marriage.
Scene II from Act I took place at the lake of the evil Baron Von Rothbart, who had placed a spell on Odette (Maria Mosina), a beautiful maid, and her followers, so they live as swans, except at night. Honestly, sometimes the parts of a ballet that are corps de ballet-heavy (dancers in a group, as opposed to soloists) are a tad boring to me, just because I love the big leaps and spins. Yet, I was completely entranced by this choreography. Odette and her swan maidens filled the stage, and everything, from their faces tipped demurely toward the ground to their long arms stretching overhead, screamed swan to a T. Siegfried showed up to fall in love with Odette, and I don’t blame him, because her penché (leg is lifted behind you, working to make a 180-degree angle with your legs while keeping your back strong) was enough to break anyone’s heart. Her bourée (ballet version of a tiptoe-run) gave me goosebumps, as she skimmed across the entire stage in about 1.2 seconds, her wings rippling behind her like ribbons.
The next evening, Siegfried was giddy with anticipation at the prospect of telling his whole kingdom he loved Odette, but first, the other princesses, as well as some visitors, had to do their best to woo him. I was very impressed with Casey Dalton and Jesse Marks, who stood out in the Czardas dance. It wasn’t more than a couple minutes, but they both had a mischievous spark about them that was enchanting. All was well in the neighborhood while we waited for Odette to show up, but, of course her plans were thwarted by that bastard Von Rothbart, who bewitched his daughter Odile to look just like Odette. The two of them showed up and Siegfried didn’t know the difference. Odile’s tutu, by the way, was perfect, and it was all I could do to not steal backstage and snag it to wear under a leather jacket. Shoo. Anyway, Odile kept Siegfried under her spell with her allegro work, and especially with the ballet’s infamous thirty-two fouettés. Remember Siegfried’s turns from Act I? Well Odile did the lady version of those turns, and she did thirty-two of them. Click here and watch Gillian Murphy do it, really, you won’t regret it. When Siegfried finally woke up and smelled the bird seed, realizing he was making moves on the wrong girl, it was too late.
The ballet finished back at the lake with Odette, her maidens, some black swans, Siegfried and Von Rothbart whirling around in smoke and feathers. The Odette tug-of-war between Siegfried and Von Rothbart left the poor swan exhausted and gasping and the audience could almost feel the ache in her body. Odette, otherwise doomed to a life in the talons of Von Rothbart, bid us adieu with a few more penchés before she leapt to her death in the bottom of the lake, followed closely by Siegfried, her love. The last of the scene was filled with the glittering swan corps de ballet getting rid of Von Rothbart, who was weakened by the love of Odette and Siegfried, for good.
After the curtain fell, we poured out into the street. The last notes of Tchaikovsky’s music swam through my head as I looked up. Which swan are you? I want to be them all.