Act 1 is the Hunting Ground where Siegfried (Piotr Stanczyk at the performance I saw) is melancholy even though it's his birthday. So what else to do in a ballet, but to dance and try to cheer up the Prince. The program notes describe the dances as "growing increasing unsettling and violent". This is true, but one of the most exciting parts was the wench (Jordana Daumec) being thrown between the knights and servants. There's actually only that one main female dancing part in Act 1. The rest is a chance for the men to show their power with leaps and jumps.
What surprised me the most was that the famous theme from Swan Lake didn't have any swans dancing to it! It is first heard in Act 2 when Benno (the Prince's friend) and Siegfried are walking through the forest going hunting for the swans. There's not really any dancing to it at all, it's more scene change music as trees fly in and out symbolizing their travelling to the marsh.
|The company (Photo by Bruce Zinger)|
|Rebekah Rimsey as the |
Hungarian Princess from a
(photo by David Cooper)
Of course Siegfried has already fallen in love, so can't choose one of the princesses. But, surprise, suddenly there's another lady, dressed in black, who looks exactly like Odette! Unknown to Siegfried it's actually Odile, brought by the evil villain Rothbart. Of course they dance and here Sonia was deliciously sensuous and seducing. If Siegfried wasn't already in love with her, he would have been! The black swan pas de duex is where the 32 fouette turns come it and to my untrained eye Sonia looked spot on. The ballerina gets all the glory but Piotr's set of turns just after it were pretty stunning too. (Similar choreography here, with a different ballet company)
Siegfried's choosing of Odile brings calamity as he's betrayed Odette, and a flood sweeps through killing everyone. This was the moment where I was most awed and it was by the use of a simple piece of silk. The silk was used as the water and was held on the sides by dancers and swept in circles causing people to be engulfed or ejected. Then just as quickly as it appeared, Rothbart arrives, grabs the silk in the middle and it collapses in spectacular fashion as he runs off stage with it. Simple yet so effective.
|Artists of the National Ballet |
(photo by David Cooper)
Not a happy ending, but with the wonderful music and dancing it was a very happy way to spend an afternoon. The National Ballet is bringing it back in March so there's still a chance to check it out if you missed it.