Mesmerising ‘Swan Lake’
There’s something magical about watching a ballet that unlocks the inner ballerina in you and transports you to that time when you were a little girl prancing around in a makeshift tutu and tiara, and daydreamed you would one day become a ballerina. No, make that prima ballerina, the leading star of a ballet company.
Or maybe, that was just us.
Those childhood reveries reawakened when we had the opportunity to watch the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s production of Swan Lake at Istana Budaya between 26 to 28 July 2019 recently.
The exquisite music of Swan Lake was composed by Russian, Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, who is most celebrated for his ballets, notably, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.
Swan Lake shares the story of Odette, an enchanted princess who is cursed by the evil sorcerer Rothbart, to appear as a swan by day, and return to her human form only at night. A chance sighting of Odette one night by charismatic Prince Siegfried causes the two to fall in love. In the final act, a battle erupts between the prince and Rothbart for Odette, in this immortal tale of love triumphing over evil.
We were excited to watch this ballet but we thought we couldn’t give this performance the attention it deserved. It was a long tiring day and the performance was three-hours long.
Our worries were for naught.
Throughout the three acts and four scenes, we were enamored with the dancers – they had our unwavering attention. And the same with the rest of the auditorium, including little “ballerinas” whom we had spotted before the start of the performance.
Admittedly, this was a pared down production of Swan Lake by the organizers. Conspicuously missing was a symphony orchestra to perform Tchaikovsky’s accompanying music. A musical recording was used instead. We also did some “homework” on past Swan Lake productions by the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre, and noticed some stage elements that didn’t make it to the Kuala Lumpur production.
We were mesmerized nonetheless.
And when Irina Kolesnikova, prima ballerina, appeared en pointe on stage, back arched, arms extended into wings as Odette; the enchanted swan princess, we were spellbound.
She was, in every sense, Odette.
Later in Act 2, Scene 3, a ballerina in a black tutu ensemble appeared. Seeing the wry expression and sinewy movements told us that this was the dangerous but seductive antiheroine, Odile. It took a while but we began to realize this ballerina, whom we had first thought to be a different dancer, was, in fact, Irina, convincingly playing the dual role of Odile.
Throughout the scenes, the dancers regaled with the precision of their split leaps, pirouettes and overall impressive choreography and costumes, combined with Tchaikovsky’s evocative music.
During a crucial final scene in Act 2, Scene 3, Irina, as Odile, had the audience gasping in awe as she executed a sequence of over 20 fouette pirouettes without moving from her spot – not an easy feat for any ballerina. Search “Swan Lake fouettes” online and you will see what we mean. A fouette (whip in French), is when a ballerina whips one leg in a circular motion to the side while turning on and off en pointe on the standing leg.
This was one of the most memorable moments for us in Swan Lake, in addition to Act 1 Scene 2, where Odette and 19 swan-maidens dominated the stage.
Before long, it was curtain call, and the dancers emerged to rapturous applause from the audience. Friday night well spent.
We hope someday soon we’ll be spellbound by Swan Lake again, or some other breathtaking ballet. Until then, we’ll channel our inner ballerina in our daily lives. Back and neck extended, legs tendu.
Article is contributed by Liya Bahar
Photos courtesy of Shiraz Projects