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Royal Danish Ballet

'Swan Lake'

by Kate Snedeker

December 16, 2006 -- Operaen, Copenhagen, Denmark

There were no debuts in this evening's performance of Peter Martins' "Swan Lake", but it was no less exciting than the previous night.  The company's senior male dancer, Kenneth Greve, took on the role of Prince Siegfried, towering over his Odette/Odile, Caroline Cavallo.  In lesser hands the height differences – a few inches even when Cavallo is on pointe – might have been an issue, but both dancers are so experienced that they made the necessary adjustments with smooth subtlety.

There are probably few, if any, dancers today who can match Greve's c.v. when it comes to "Swan Lakes".  This experience was evident in his noble, but deeply affecting interpretation of the Prince Siegfried.  This was not a youngster mad with lust, but a man truly, deeply in love. At 6ft 5in (or so), Greve cuts an impressive figure on the stage and above it.  The highlights of his solos were his soaring grand jetés – the sight of those long legs stretched high above the stage is jaw dropping – and his rock-steady turns.  Cavallo brings a very mature rendition of Odette and Odile to the stage – a fragile, shy, but smitten Odette and conniving, gloating Odile.  It is her arms in particular that make an impression, for she uses them to great effect, whether in wavering winglike motions or the sharp angles of Odile's final poses.

Her von Rothbart on this evening was Peter Bo Bendixen, who, aside from being a character actor with the RDB, has also recently been named director of the ballet at the Tivoli Pantomime Theatre.  No von Rothbart could hope to tower over Greve, but Bendixen did not need size to convey his evil.  He has mastered the swoop of the cape, flashing the bright orange lining to catch the eye and using the full expanse of the cape to make himself seem more imposing.

There were no major cast changes from the previous evening, but many impressive performances.  Morten Eggert, again the jester, is the master of improvisation, and I managed to miss much of the early action of Act 1, while entranced with his little mannerisms and acting.   Perhaps the most touching of his scenes is the transition between the two parts of Act 2.  After the court has fled in the aftermath of Odile's seduction of Siegfried, the hall lies empty.  After a moment's pause, the jester creeps in to survey the scene. He looks around with an unjesterly solemnity, and then uses his finger to trace the tracks of two tears down his cheeks.  Then he curls up in the throne as the panels of the ballroom split up and off to reveal the swan lake of the final scene.  It's an immensely powerful transition, as it gives the audience a chance to take a breath after the chaos of the Scene 3 finale and grasp the enormity of what has just happened.  To have the jester, who has, up until now represented humor, remind us of the tragedy makes it all the more poignant. At New York City Ballet, where it appears that less thought goes into the characterisation of the jester, the scene loses its impact.  Here, with Eggert’s masterful acting and dancing, our attention never wavers. The set transition is masterful too, for the panels split up and out, as if a wall was shattering and fading back into the forest.

Ulrikk Birkkjær took over the role of Benno tonight, revealing the talents of another of the company's up and coming men.  Of particular note in his solo was a series of beautiful pirouettes that ended in a perfectly balanced relevé.   The pas de quatre was again led by Dawid Kupinski with Diani Cuni, Gudrun Bojesen and Lesley Culver. I look forward to seeing Kupinski, who is just 22, develop his vast talents.  Tonight he struck me as looking a bit like a young Kenneth Greve with his long legs, high, controlled, stretched jumps and plush plies. 

The casting for many of the other divertissements was excellent.  Sebastian Kloborg and Maria Bernholdt are a match made in heaven for the spicy Hungarian Dance – she has sass and power, he high jumps and energy.  Up until now, I'd always considered Kloborg as more of a Romantic dancer – he debuted as Romeo last fall, but he has really sunk his teeth into the Hungarian dance and revealed a new facet to his dancing.  Amy Watson was a Russian dancer on a knife-edge, pushing the choreography to its breathtaking extreme, ably supported by Jean-Lucien Massot.  Both Massot and also Tim Matiakis in the Neapolitan dance overcame two of the more unfortunate costumes in the production, though Matiakis seemed to have lost his black and white ballet slippers somewhere between Kongens Nytorv and Dokoen.

And it wouldn't be "Swan Lake" without the swans, who were again a model of corps excellence.  One often does not realize the lack of true cohesion in corps de ballets until seeing true cohesion, such as that seen in "Swan Lake" this week.  It's not a matter of getting every footstep and arm in identical positions, but a uniformity of style and movement, the best example of which were the gentle 'wing flaps' in our first introduction to the swan.  24 (20?) pairs of arms surged upwards and down with the same energy and curve.  I also was struck tonight by the beautiful coordination in the sequence where the swans, all on flat foot in arabesque, all hop turn to the music.  It's a visually arresting scene, and no less impressive technically given that it's no cup of tea balancing on a flat pointe shoe. (I've heard it compared to wearing little canoes on one's feet.) The one troublesome point was again the classic bent wristed 'swan neck' position, something that seems to stymie corps around the world.

Tadeusz Wojcieochowski again conducted, again with a few tempo issues.

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