I attended a studio rehearsal of Acts 1, 2 and 4 on Wednesday, September 17. Board Chair Cathi Hatch announced that the dancers are donating their opening night salaries to the PNB general operating fund. Ariana Lallone and Olivier Wevers were thanked for spearheading the fundraising and production coordination of "Eleven," the photo book of the eleven PNB principals which will debut at the Opening Night performance of Swan Lake.
Kent Stowell spoke briefly regarding the history of Swan Lake in the repertory of U.S. companies, noting that until ABT's 1966 production, most companies had limited themselves to Act 2. The choreography for the current PNB production began its development while Kent and Francia were still in Frankfurt. It has been produced at intervals since 1981. The sets (by Ming Cho Lee) and costumes (by Paul Tazewell) are entirely new this year. Some choreography has been revised, particularly in Act 1, where a corps of peasants has been recast as part of a court hunting party reset en pointe.
The opening night cast performed for this invited audience, comprised largely of donors and trustees. The corps, a mix of regular corps members and PNB School Professional Division students, performed exceptionally well. In the first act Pas de Trois, Noelani Pantastico was impressive for her musicality; in her variation, every toe hop was precisely placed in time with the music. Le Yin was afforded the opportunity to display his remarkable elevation. Jodie Thomas was impressive for her port de bras and epaulement in her variation. As the Jester, Jonathan Porretta is, as always, remarkable for his speed and intensity. Paul Gibson has a star turn as Wolfgang, the Prince's tutor. Paul will only be appearing in a couple of performances during the first week of the run, as he is leaving to participate in the New York Choreographic Institute at NYCB during the latter part of the run.
As Odette, Patricia Barker is at the top of her form. Regal, statuesque, yet amazingly flexible and able to convey apprehension and vulnerability. Her partnership with Stanko Milov continues to develop as they meld their diverse array of experiences. Stanko would benefit from a more deliberate -- more regal, more princely -- bearing in the action sections. On several occasions he ran through his "stage business" too quickly for the music and needed to improvise filler. More experience with straight run-through rehearsals (and performances) should help him gain a better perspective on timing.
The Cygnets -- Chalnessa Eames, Rachel Foster, Tempe Ostergren and Kara Zimmerman -- are well aligned in height and timing. The three "big" swans -- Carrie Imler, Maria Chapman, Stacey Lowenberg -- all have magnificent elevation.
The rehearsal clock ran out before the fourth act could be completed, although we did have the opportunity to see through the end of the Pas de Deux.
I am very much looking forward to the new sets and costumes in the new hall next week.