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Royal Danish Ballet

'Swan Lake'

by Kate Snedeker

December 18, 2006 -- Operaen, Copenhagen, Denmark

There are no guarantees in show biz; anything can happen. And tonight it did. The orchestra launched into the overture, the lights faded out, the scrim slipped upward and stopped about four feet off the stage. And stuck. After the audience watched 30 seconds of dancers dancing from the waist down, the main curtain dropped and the lights came up. Five minutes later, the recalcitrant scrim had been relegated elsewhere, the ballet was restarted using just the main curtain.

Unfortunately, because the action on stage begins as the curtain is coming up, and replaying the whole overture was not a viable option, the dancers had to ad-lib through about a minute of music before their cue. Big kudos to all the dancers, especially Christopher Rickert who, though robbed of his big entrance, ad-libbed his way admirably until the music and the dance could be blended back together.

The first act dances, though enthusiastic, seemed just a hair less crisp as in previous nights, perhaps due to the tension slightly broken by the false start. The youngest of the dancers in the role, Rickert, is a very kinetic Jester, bouncing around,, interested in everything and looking like he's enjoying every minute on stage. It's not as refined an interpretation as Morten Eggert's and perhaps a bit too active at times (even a jester can be subtle,) but Rickert seems wisely to be crafting his own Jester rather than copying anyone else's. I did however miss the bit Eggert did at the end of the 3rd scene, tracing imaginary tears down his face, which Rickert did not.

Caroline Cavallo appeared again as Odette/Odile, this time capably partnered by Andrew Bowman. Though Cavallo might not get so much air time with the shorter Bowman (though he's also over 6ft), they are a more balanced pair than Cavallo and Greve. For me, Bowman is the most satisfying of the Siegfrieds.  I've always felt his stage presence is mature beyond his 28 years, and he has the good looks, passionate acting skills, fine technique, partnering know-how and most importantly the knowledge of how to put it all together. When he knelt down 'crying' in front of the queen after realizing he'd lost Odette by swearing the oath to Odile, I could almost feel his pain. Cavallo, in her second performance in three days, shone in Bowman's hands. Along with Yao Wei and Sebastien Michanek, this is a pair that should be top on the list for future performances.

Siegfried's friend Benno gets short shrift in this production, disappearing after the first act. As he's supposed to be Siegfried's friend, I can't figure out why he doesn't show up at the birthday party. Did the swans get him?  In any case, Cédric Lambrette did a fine job in the role, both on his own and supporting Susanne Grinder and Izabela Sokolowska in the pas de trois.

In both the pas de trois and pas de quatre I have been continually impressed with the ability of the Royal Danish Ballet dancers to stay in synch. It's not easy to time your steps exactly to someone by your side, let alone when there are men and women together. Tonight, especially, in the finale of the pas de quatre, the three ladies were spot on for the penultimate turns. It's not fatal if they are a bit off, but when it's on, it just looks fantastic.

Again, the pas de quatre was undoubtedly the highlight of the divertissements. What struck me tonight were the height of Dawid Kupinksi's jumps and the sparkle of Diani Cuni's solo. Cuni, who is scheduled to make her debut as Teresina in "Napoli" on Wednesday, has quietly excelled in Bournonville roles and her pas de quatre solo makes great use of the attributes that have made her such a fine Bournonville dancer. She has quicksilver footwork, crispness, elegant epaulment, fine phrasing and a beautiful smile atop it all.

Constantine Baecher was enthusiastic as the lead male Hungarian dancer, but Meaghan Spedden has yet to master the presence needed to make an impression as the lead female. The Hungarian Dance is all about bold shapes and steps with power and weight behind them, neither of which I saw the right amount of tonight. Meanwhile Maria Bernholdt brought her spice to the Spanish Dance, with Ulrik Birkkjær, Josee Howard and especially Fernando Mora rounding out the sizzling foursome. Amy Watson again attacked the Russian dance with a breathtaking take-no-prisoners attitude, and Jean-Lucien Massot was a rock solid partner. Watson practically hurled herself into the final pose, but there seemed no doubt that Massot would catch her at exactly the final note. He did, and we could finally exhale...

The swan corps started out strong but looked a tad less tight in the final scene. It may be the effects of ten "Swan Lakes" in two weeks while also preparing for the re-premiere of "Napoli."  This not a huge company and many of the women in the corps are in both the divertissements and the swan corps!

As I was watching the divertissements, I couldn't help but wonder if Peter Martins had taken some of his inspiration from the divertissements in Balanchine's "Nutcracker". It's all Tchaikovsky music, and I think the music in the Spanish dance is very similar, if not the same, as the Hot Chocolate divertissement in "Nutcracker". The costumes share a lot of similarities as well. My favorite costumes though are the Hungarian ones because they really move with the dancers and the shades of reds, yellows and greens in the women's skirts seem to flatter every dancer, no matter her hair color or complexion. In contrast, I still cringe every time I see the Neapolitian lead male in what can only be described as a tie-dyed belly-dancing top - it's a skin tight shirt knotted high in front to reveal most of the dancer's midriff and looks more like something from the Flinstones than from classical ballet. It's rather an embarrassment given that "Napoli", which is being run at the same time, gives multiple examples of authentic Neapolitian wear. None of which is tie dye or midriff bearing.

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