The Mariinsky Ballet, once known as the Kirov Ballet, premiered Swan Lake at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Tuesday, October 2nd 2012 in Orange County, California.
The Mariinsky ballet, resides in St. Petersburg and is not the oldest ballet establishment in the world, the Paris Opera is but it is the most glorified because it trains its dancers the purest and most traditional form of classical Ballet: Vaganova technique.
The school and theatre are known to have produced and housed the most well known soloists and choreographers who impacted the world of Ballet for centuries after: Fokine, Diaghilev, Nijinski, Pavlova, Ulanova, Nureyev and Baryshnikov.
On Tuesday, the company opened their California debut of Swan Lake with one of their own rising ballerinas, the gorgeous Oxana Skorik in the double role of the enchanted swan queen Odette and her evil alter ego Odile.
When first the 22 year-old Oxana enters the stage as the swan woman Odette, showing off her endless extensions, deep combre (back bends) and fluid pors de bras (arm movements) everything seems well. Her physical impersonation of the swan combined with her fragile physique and legato movements has the world-class quality the audience yearned to see. Everything seems not so well once she has to switch into her evil alter ego Odile.
The problem is not that she doesn’t have technical qualities that exceed far beyond her age, it is her emotional detachment to the role of Odile and more so to her prince which requires far more maturity and acting ability that this ballerina missed to develop. She also fails to follow through in her portrayal of love and deceit with the equally young Vladimir Schklyarov in the role of Siegfried. It isn’t so much that the young ballerina just didn’t muster up enough stamina for her fouttee sequence (32 executive turns on pointe) it is her lack of follow through in her double role that disappoints.
Although her boyish partner Vladimir possesses a youthful and innocent charm that is believable for this naïve and inexperienced prince he equally seems to struggle keeping a connection to his swan queen and starts fumbling on some lifts in the third act, almost dropping the ballerina.
His high arabesques and multiple attitude turns are impressive. His arcing leaps and crisp turns are distinguished.
Other solists, including the high-flying and persuasively evil Rothbart Konstantin Zverev and Alexesey Nedvigath as the jester, with his easy athleticism and persuasive demeanor are well received by the audience.
The real heroes of this performance are the musicians of the Mariinsky orchestra and the corps de ballet dancers.
The precision and dedication in which every single movement was executed to Tchaikovsky’s music was breathtaking and impeccable. Every back has the same soft-swept arch, every arm and arabesque the same line and every neck is held with so much poise. The effect is intoxicating and during the dance of Cygnets Maria Shirinkina, Svetlana Ivanova, Anastasia Mikheykina and Elena Chmili move impeccable as one with perfectly staccato feet.
Ravishing are also the costumes and the lighting in this production. The backdrops and set decoration are equally astonishing. From the first act to the blue act one really gets transported onto court and out to the lake with swans swimming in the lake enjoying the flickering moonlight.
A nice touch visually are also the few black swans added in the last act.
The conductor Mikhail Agrest keeps the dancers on the beat making sure they and the orchestra finish safely together. Even though this performance was less then perfect you should still make an effort seeing the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra simple becauseit it is still one of the most prestigious and traditional classical ballet companies alive. And who knows you may find yourself humming Tchaikovsy's Swan lake theme and trippeling to the beat on your way home dreaming about a prince or little swans who will have inspired you enough creating new dreams and new hopes for days to come.
The Mariinsky Ballet and orchestra is performing Oct2-9th at Segerstrom Center of the Arts. Tickets are $30 and up. For more information visit SCFT.org or call 714-556-2787