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Swan Lake.

"Swan Lake is a story about the price you have to pay for making the wrong choice,N Peter Martins said at a press conference about his new work for the Royal Danish Ballet. However, this surprisingly moral interpretation of the Petipa-Ivanov classic is not visible in Martins's production--which is probably just as well, since moral doesn't have a natural place in the fairy-tale world of destiny. As it appears onstage, Martins's Swan Lake is more of an abstract dance, framed by minimal dramatic storytelling.

Martins's partner for this two-act version is the Danish painter Per Kirkeby. His fascinating drop curtain is itself an interpretation of the ballet, revealing as many details of the work as does Tchaikovsky's overture, replacing the musical themes with colors and sketches of the fragile figures-to-be. In contrast, Kirkeby and Kirsten Lund Nielsen's costumes are extremely ugly, a messy mix of every possible style.

For these performances, three different Odette-Odiles and four different Siegfrieds have entered this naked stage. Silja Schandorff and Kenneth Greve created a beautiful couple on opening night. Schandorff gave the white swan much grace--and made the black swan quite a brutal flirt--with rapid wing movements and frightened eyes. Greve showed off his soft jumps and long lines, but dramatically he didn't have much to tell. Some performances later, Greve was replaced by Aage Thordal Christensen as partner for Schandorff. Even though he danced in a more romantic manner, he didn't fully develop a convincing character.

In the second cast, Heidi Ryom and Martin James somehow managed to dance against the choreography and bring the focus back to the love story. Ryom's swan was movingly fragile and heartbroken; she made Martins's Russian-American-Danish style suit her refined body. As her partner, James danced with a sincerity that made his longing interesting from his very first entrance.

Caroline Cavallo and Jean-Lucien Massot, in the third cast, may have become the only couple to fulfill Martins's abstract intentions. Cavallo danced with a stunning technique (and exquisite hands) and with a musical efficiency that seemed to match Martins's ideals of high-speed movement--and she impressed as the only black swan to execute the thirty-two frightening fouettes (the others did only twelve). Massot appeared as an experienced Siegfried, reaching out for his dream with persistent energy and masculine power.

The Royal Danish Ballet had announced its dream of dancing Swan Lake when Frank Andersen was still ballet director some years ago. The dream came true during a period which was a strange vacuum for the company--still recovering from the turbulence of Peter Schaufuss's departure and at the same time waiting for Maina Gielgud to take over as director in January 1997. At this point, Swan Lake is an important ballet for the company, which looks surprisingly good in Martins's hectic movements. Artistically, the production is the result of the rigid logic of turning a love story into an abstract piece of art. The moral of this effort might be the obvious one--that a love story can't be told without passion.
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Title Annotation:Royal Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark
Author:Christensen, Anne Flindt
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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