With the Mariinsky Festival Swan Lake performances to be staged in about two weeks I have been thinking a great deal about this. I have been watching Swan Lake videos almost every night. Over the last four years I have probably watched the lakeside pas de deux (duet, Act I, scene ll, sometimes called Act II) twenty times or more than I have watched any other part of Swan Lake. I will often watch this duet four or five times in a row without looking at anything else.
Why do I like ballet anyway? One obvious reason has much to do with female beauty, perhaps you could say idealized female beauty, probably one of the most important things in the world for me being a man.
Odette can become an ideal for me of beauty and purity.
The Odette that I have been watching the most lately on video is Yulia Makhalina. She is a second by second ever-changing phenomena when I view her. For me there is so much going on that I am never sure the next time that I see her that I will feel the same. I may focus on a new detail or I may 'ride the wave' at a different instant and everything slightly changes.
So what do I focus on? First, I have to admit, is her porcelain doll, beautiful face. No matter what I might be feeling about her performance, the minute she looks out to the audience I go silent inside.
Her figure is extremely beautiful as well, especially as with most ballerinas, her legs.
Then there is the ideal or the spiritual or whatever you may call it----and the humanity. Physically she can capture moments of statuesque transcendence as well as anyone that I have seen. As far as character is concerned she can be a goddess, a loving shelter or an innocent child.
For me she can also display a freedom of style, a movie star's desire for effect and a pure sensual awareness.
It is the Constantly Changing Mix of all these elements that captivates me. What will she do next? Who will she be next? Blink you eye and you might be riding a different wave than you were riding last time.
Most important for me, as with most ballet performers, is the depth of feeling that I have after having watched her.