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Tulsa Ballet - 'Swan Lake'

by Gretchen Collins

February 11, 2007 -- Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

With the flutter of feathers, finery and fouettés, “Swan Lake” graced the stage once more at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center’s Chapman Music Hall. True to its reputation as the world’s most popular ballet, the auditorium was packed with appreciative patrons and not a few budding ballerinas.

As the curtain rose on a lavish garden and castle scene, courtesy of Milwaukee Ballet, the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra rendered Tchaikovsky’s famous score under the direction of Tulsa Ballet’s music director Nathan Fifield. Tulsa favorite, principal Alfonso Martín, portrayed Prince Siegfried with corps member Ricardo Graziano in a promising performance as Rothbart, the prince’s subconscious in human form. Demi-soloist, Karina Gonzalez, danced a star turn in the role of Odette/Odile.

The opening dances were colorful and festive with eight male dancers performing a series of vertical jumps. Martín entered and executed a number of  high-flying leaps and pirouettes while the Queen, played by Georgia Snoke, reminded him of his duty to select a bride. The pas de quatre was danced by Alexandra Bergman--who also received applause for her solo--Ashley Blade-Martín, Michael Eaton, and Mugen Kazama.

At the lake, Martín and Graziano’s movements sometimes echoed the each other as though their thoughts were in sync, then broke off into opposite directions. The swans took center stage as they “landed.” The women of Tulsa Ballet made the swan scenes plausible. Through creative port de bras and by the clatter of toe shoes, it was easy to imagine birds taking flight

Gonzalez was delightfully coquettish as she shook her tail feathers at the Prince’s touch. In her pas de deux with Martín, her turns and arabesques were elegant. Martín lovingly caught her as she fell in a soft backbend.

In the most moving scene, the swans surrounded Gonzalez and Martín when Odette and the Prince surrendered to their emotions, circling them as if to protect their fledgling love in a constant quivering of feathers.

Gonzalez’ solo included crisply executed turns, enviable pointe work and a grand swan arabesque. But it was her bow at the close of Act Two where she carefully, gracefully folded back her wings that tugged at our hearts.

The national dances were festive and well danced. Demi-soloist Serena Chu and corps dancer Alberto Montesso stood out in their lighthearted duet. Montesso’s character was never in the right place at the right time in the Neopolitan dance. He played the comedic moments perfectly. The twosome was a high point in this rousing number with plenty of audience pleasing jumps and turns. It has been reported that Tchaikovsky composed this music in the hope that the dancers would play castanets. Here, instead, the two shook tambourines in happy abandon.              Gonzalez once again received applause after her solo as the Black Swan Odile. In her duet with Martín she first danced much as she had as Odette, but slowly a dark edge emerged. Her pointe work was exacting here and her extensions were particularly far reaching. Later, when she came to the fouettés that so many dancers dread, she whipped through all of them with astonishing ease, leaving us breathless.             

Martín, with his assured dancing, demonstrated athletic artistry with soaring leaps and sharp batterie in his solo while he gobbled up the stage in mighty turns. The Prince is the type of role that Martín does well. He is both technically excellent and a capable actor. His partnering is so subtle, so understated and yet completely essential. Although he and Gonzalez do not yet have the degree of personal chemistry that he and former principal Daniela Buson displayed, it is  evidently budding and should continue to evolve over time. When Martín lifted her in last act, suspending reality was not difficult.  Gonzalez did, for all intents and purposes, fly! These are the moments we watch for.

Lighting, designed by Julie Duro, was deftly employed at the end of Act One as her sunset colors mixed with the bright costume hues making for a memorable exit, and did the same again in the Lake scene where it produced a frosted effect during the dances of the swan maidens.

Marcello Angelini, Tulsa Ballet’s artistic director in an interview promised a $1 million production at far less cost, and delivered. Sets, costumes and dance looked like a million bucks.

Angelini choreographed all but the second act, which retains the choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Angelini prefers happy endings and with Valentine’s Day less than a week away, it was the right choice. And so it was, Prince Siegfried witnessed his swan transformed into the woman of his dreams. In Tulsa Balletland, dreams come true.         

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