Hi Natalia (& Buddy & Catherine) – wasn’t it amazing that Pavlenko actually wound up dancing in Boston this afternoon? Natalia I’m so glad to hear that you were as impressed with the performance as I was! I was also out in Chicago last weekend, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to post much. Since I just got back from two 4 hour train rides to catch a 3 hour performance I had time to put my thoughts together. I posted my impressions on another forum, but since you expressed an interest in hearing about Pavlenko’s Swan Lake I decided to post them here as well. It will be interesting to compare notes!
Natalia, I was surprised to hear that you haven't seen her Swan Lake before, and that she hasn’t danced it often. I first saw her in SL 2 years ago in DC and was so overcome by the depth of her portrayal I felt sure that she’d been dancing it for years. I wrote then that in the 2nd act “she created the effect of one continuous flowing motion, a deep, long, desperate sigh. I have never seen a more fully realized expression of sorrow & despair in the second act adagio”
Her Sunday matinee performance in Chicago wasn’t quite up to that level in my eyes, I felt that her performance there was merely extraordinary. Her dancing was lyrical and fluid, her expressive back, torso, neck, head and arms created a soft, beautiful legato flow that spoke of her longing and despair and complemented her beautiful arabesques and attitudes. Along with the pathos and poignancy of her Odette her humanity always came through. There is something very genuine about her so that even when her dancing is soft and ethereal you still feel such a direct connection to her and to what she is feeling onstage. She and Lopatkina both have very pliant backs & arms, and a similar way of moving so although I could describe them with many of the same words – soft, flowing, warm- their personalities and bodies produce completely different, almost opposite effects. Lopatkina, through all her beauty & sadness is every inch the Queen, while Pavlenko sometimes looked so achingly sad that you just wanted to reach out and comfort her.
Her performance in Boston was brilliant, the same kind of performance that had such a strong impact on me in DC. From the moment she bourreed out on stage and stopped in her tracks, terrified by Zelensky’s Prince Siegfried you knew this was a different Daria Pavlenko from the one who had danced the role just a week ago in Chicago with Sarafanov. She had been great then, but today she was in another zone entirely. The electricity coursed through her veins and out into the audience. This was the kind of performance that takes your breath away. In the 3rd act she stumbled out of a turn, and nobody cared. Her 32 fouettes were completed decently, but nothing more – but we all loved her Odile with that enchanting smile – first mischievous, then haughty and finally triumphant. Zelensky must still be nursing his injury because they skipped a lot of the big lifts – and nobody missed them. Instead of the overhead lifts in the first lakeside scene he turned her in arabesque penchee. They skipped the big climatic lift at the end – and nobody cared. I think they substituted a series of pique arabesques punctuated by desperate embraces as they made their way through the 2 lines of swans but I wouldn’t swear to it – I was so entranced by the spell they cast I couldn’t take time away from watching the action to actually analyze what they were doing. This was an incredible performance – one that sent chills down my spine and left me with goosebumps.
Last week what struck me most about her performance was her beautiful legato phrasing, the softness and perfect integration of her dancing with her poses stretching and changing and flowing into movement. Today what struck me was the way that this subtle, lyrical style of dancing was wed to such powerful emotion. And she wasn't over the top dramatically, either. It’s hard to explain, because she did act – she just didn’t overact & she acted with her body, with her steps as well as with her face. It was total integration, total commitment.
A couple of examples – at the end of the first lakeside scene when she turned back into a swan, her desperation not to leave Siegfried was so strong that she reached for him with her entire body and thru the tips of her fingers as the power of von Rothbarts spell was tugging the rest of her in the opposite direction. She clung to her dream and fought for it until she was absolutely forced her back into her swan body and back to the lake. I thought she was going to be torn apart by the force she was exerting in opposite directions. As the last act was approaching the finale, again, the desperation her arms expressed as she was caressing & clinging to Siegfried just broke your heart. When it was over and von Rothbart lay defeated she gave us my favorite version of the Kirov ending, the one I saw from her the last time I witnessed a Swan Lake of this caliber. Battered & defeated she lay on the floor and as Siegfried tenderly lifted her up she looked around with a tremulous, disbelieving look. First down at von Rothbart, then up at Siegfried, then down again at her hands and then this incredulous look came over her face as she realized that her nightmare was over. Her face this afternoon is the best argument I can think of in favor of the happy ending