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Swan Lake’ beautiful but flawed

Christie Bolsen | Friday, November 12, 2004

The Moscow Ballet Company transformed tragedy into beauty on Thursday with its presentation of Tchaikovsky’s famed masterpiece “Swan Lake” at the Morris Performing Arts Center. The performance was filled with the composer’s gorgeous imagery and emotion, thanks to lavish staging and the dancers’ superb mastery of their art.

The Moscow Ballet is a self-proclaimed “pure classical ballet company” that consists of all Russian dancers who are graduates of the Moscow Choreographic Institute and the Vaganova Institute. The performers begin the intense training regimen as early as eight years old.

The result is a cast of 50 artists who bring magic to the timeless love story, although it is the magnificent Tatiana Predeina as both Odette and Odile who owns the vibrant production. Set against a luminous pastel backdrop, bright costumes adorned with feathers and sparkles decorate the stage for two hours. Even the colorful peasant dresses are glamorous on the talented corps de ballet.

While the ensemble had occasional synchronization problems, the corps was spectacular as the swan maidens. They filled the stage like white tulle flowers and performed some of the best dancing of the night as the enchanted birds. Predeina in particular captured swan-like grace and sharpness perfectly, with her fluttering arm movements and airy footwork.

Anton Domashev, as the evil sorcerer Rothbart, also commanded the stage each time he ominously appeared, dancing with such a powerful presence that it was almost disappointing to see him lying prostrate on the stage after his showdown with Prince Siegfried in this happy-ending version of the tragedy.

Vladimir Statni and Andrei Litvinov as the prince were much less impressive. Siegfried’s first appearances featured minimal dancing, and mainly consisted of him gazing off into the distance wistfully. These dull and extended sequences made it difficult for the audience to sympathize with his anguish after he fails to recognize Odile as Rothbart’s daughter disguised as his true love, but he proves his worth as the lead male role with impressive solos in Act II.

Unfortunately for the entire performance, the orchestra pit sat empty as Tchaikovsky’s brilliant music played through speakers. The consequently canned quality of the score was especially noticeable with the woodwinds-a piccolo quickly becomes unpleasantly abrasive when blared at high volume. This ballet company was too talented not to have live musicians, which are an essential part of the ballet.

“The choreography was entertaining, but the lack of an orchestra really took away from the experience,” said senior Nick Moller.

Despite the disappointing pre-recorded score, the Moscow Ballet Company charged the modest stage visually with its lovely rendition of “Swan Lake.” The expressive nature of the story allowed Predeina and Domashev to shine theatrically as well, conveying intense emotions through their movements. Audience members can expect wonderful dancing from the company, and a warm-fuzzy conclusion where good ultimately triumphs over evil.