American Ballet Theatre

'Swan Lake'

by Kate Snedeker

June 28, 2003, 8pm -- Metropolitan Opera House, New York

American Ballet Theatre’s 2003 Met Opera House Season closed with a powerful performance of Kevin McKenzie’s Swan Lake. On this final evening, the cast led by American Ballet Theatre veterans, Nina Ananiashvili and Julio Bocca, and the orchestra under the baton of Charles Barker, ended the season on a high note, with top quality dancing and music.

As Prince Siegfried, Bocca initially seemed too giddily energetic for a prince weighed down with the prospect of impending marriage. Yet, as the festivities of the birthday party proceeded, Bocca’s expressions conveyed a sense of increasing unease and unhappiness. This was clearly an unhappy Prince, even though he could escape his troubles briefly while partying and dancing. With this buildup of emotions, the hunting trip into the forest became great release, a place where Siegfried thought that there would be nothing but nature and prey... or so he thought. Herman Cornejo was stunning as Siegfried’s friend Benno, seemingly escaping the force of gravity in his double cabrioles and lightning quick, but airy beats. Maria Ricetto, replacing the injured Erica Cornejo, and Xiomara Reyes completed an excellent Pas de Trois. The corps ran into potential trouble with tangled May Pole garlands, but continued to dance with such joy and energy that the tangle seemed but a minor mishap.

Ananiashvili exuded power and grand elegance as both Odette and Odile, though as Odette she had tendency to move her wrists too much, instead of using her entire arms as an unbroken whole to create the wing-like motion. Her Odette was the most powerfully seductive of the season, using intense eye contact to further the impact of her seductive dancing. The combination of Bocca’s and Ananiashvili’s tremendous talents made for a dramatic and powerfully energetic Black Swan Pas de Deux. His turns in second and her fouettes were impressive in their speed, though sometimes there seemed to be a sacrifice in technique in exchange for the lightning fast speed. Along similar lines, her balance was impressive, though it appeared that the extended hold caused her to get off the music.

The Third Act, however, really belonged to Marcelo Gomes’ delightfully evil and unctuous Von Rothbart. Tall and imposing, Gomes was not the most evil of Von Rothbarts, but he worked his magic by seeming to be everywhere at once, keeping the crowd in the palm of his hand from the moment he swooped into the ballroom. His near flawless, elegant dancing and smooth partnering of the princesses were also most impressive. In the divertissements, David Hallberg, Stella Abrera, Eric Otto and Adriane Schulte stood out in the Spanish Dance, and the Czardas, led by Gennadi Saveliev and Anna Licecia had unexpected energy.

The female corps, led by Michelle Wiles and Veronika Part as the two main swans, looked much improved over earlier performances. They moved as a cohesive and elegant whole, with impressively exact positions and fluid transitions.

Bocca and Ananiashvili again brought grand drama to the final pas deux, though as in earlier acts ,both dancers had a discomfitting tendency to slip out of character before they were out of sight in the wings. It can be hard to judge the audience’s line of sight, especially in a strangely shaped stage like the Met, but it can really break the magical spell of the ballet to see the dancers stop dancing or sag in exhaustion. Ethan Brown was a muscular and dramatic creature Von Rothbart.

Congratulations to the American Ballet Theatre dancers on another magical Met Season. Fondest farewells to those who apparently made their final appearances on the Met stage -- Elizabeth Gaither as well as Brian Reeder, Sandra Brown and Joaquin De Luz (who makes the cross-Lincoln Center transition to New York City Ballet in September) who performed earlier in the week.

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