ALBANY — An enduring memory from my first viewing of Swan Lake is not of Odette, the Black Swan or Rothbart. It’s of the series of barrel turns executed by the Jester. It was a decade ago, and I failed to record his name, but in memory I’ve named him “Baryshnikov.” He proceeded to leap the length of the stage, spinning around with his leg extended as if in an attempt to kick something suspended above him, only to finish with what appeared to be a triple saut de basque. I was struck by this exhibition of strength and endurance.
The Jester is a polarizing subject for those who appreciate Swan Lake. The character is more common in the St. Petersburg version of the ballet. He serves as comic relief, if performed properly. The bulk of his work is observed to the side and detracts one’s attention from the dancers on center stage. Nonetheless, it was his performance I looked forward to when attending the Russian Ballet Theatre’s “Swan Lake” at the Palace Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
This year’s production, choreographed by Nadezhda Kalinina, included exquisitely hand-painted sets and hand-sewn costumes created by designer Sergei Novikov. From the first scene, the set gave the incredible illusion of Rothbart and the swans dancing from within a medieval tapestry. Rothbart’s corvine appearance was striking, especially when paired with the makeup work of Award-winning artist Irina Strukova from “Crazy Rich Asians.” However, Novikov’s remarkable work was best displayed in the ballroom scene in Act Two. The iron throne ornamented by a stained glass window set behind it, and the costumes adorned by the players, exhibited painstaking detail.
The ballet, however, is measured by the performance of three characteristic dances; the Jester, the Dance of the Cygnets, and the Black Swan’s 32 fouettés. Olga Kifyak portrayed the dual roles of Odette and Odile, the Black Swan. This demanding role defines the career of the dancer who tackles it. Kifyak was graceful as the pure-of-heart Odette, and seductive as Odile. The subtle exchange with Rothbart as her Black Swan seduced Prince Siegfried helped complete the art of the storyline. She followed with a strong execution of those 32 fouettés, never wavering from her position.
Mikhail Ovcharov is a physical specimen. His thighs alone look larger than that of a professional football player. A stark contrast to the spindled legs of the male members of the corps, whose sloppy footwork was the only negative mark to this show. His Jester provided wonderful comic relief in a role not muted to satisfy its detractors. His work, too, was highlighted by those magnificent barrel turns.
This production of “Swan Lake” was not accompanied by an orchestra, but instead by a recording of Tchaikovsky’s composition. The recording was played at a noticeably low volume. We could still hear each footfall of the cygnets despite that we were seated several rows away from the stage. This apparent oversight served as a blessing as it drew more attention to the female members of the corps de ballet, specifically during the Dance of the Cygnets. I’ve watched several performances and nothing compared to that of this particular quartet. Each movement was precise and in unison. Each footfall sounded as one, and I found myself thankful that I could hear it.
ALBANY — Russian Ballet Theatre’s new production of “Swan Lake,” onstage Tuesday evening at the Palace Theatre, proves once again that the villains are always the most interesting characters. The very vanilla Prince Siegfried may have his happily-ever-after with his sweet Odette, but the evil sorcerer Rothbart and his daughter Odile would be a lot more fun to party with.
Speaking of parties, close to half of “Swan Lake” is taken up by celebrations—Siegfried’s coming-of-age gathering in Scene 1 and the marry-him-off ball in Scene 3. That means loads of divertissements, with the original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov given a fresh polish by RBT’s Nadezhda Kalinina. Particularly diverting are the cartwheeling, leapfrogging jesters; the Spanish Dancers, with flamenco- and caballero-inspired costumes and moves; and the Russian Dancers’ lyrical pas de trois, with gauzy dresses and intricate headpieces.
The object of all this hoopla, Prince Siegfried (Eugeny Svetlitsa), appears underwhelmed. He ends the first get-together abruptly because he’d rather go hunting with his new crossbow, a gift from his mother, the queen (Katrina Jenkins, dressed like a fabulous Disney princess). At the ball, he’s just going through the motions of courting the potential brides on display, like a Bachelor on a group date.
Lovesick Siegfried only has eyes for his spell-bound swan, Odette, who enchanted him instantly in their encounter by the lake. There’s some nice work here in which the two pass by each other like ships in the mist, sensing the other’s presence but unable to touch, until he locates her at last.
When Siegfried meets Odile at the ball, he’s sure that she and Odette are one and the same—surprisingly, since their personalities couldn’t be more different. As Odette, Olga Kifyak seems pained rather than tragic; she tends to direct her gaze to the ground, which might befit her challenging situation but makes her dancing feel tentative and a bit stilted. As Odile, though, she bursts with confidence and presence as she zips through a series of powerful pirouettes, putting Siegfried’s laid-back leaps to shame. Her malicious grin glitters as brightly as her dress—one of 150 gorgeous hand-sewn costumes created by Sergei Novikov, who also designed the spectacular hand-painted sets.
Vasili Bogdan’s Rothbart is dramatically creepy, with his own ominous theme music (director Tod Browning used this section of Tchaikovsky’s score to open his 1931 version of “Dracula,” with Bela Lugosi). His threatening, crow-like presence is a perfect contrast to the light and fluttering flock of swans. Overall, the company’s approach is a bit soft-edged and relaxed, which sometimes results in a certain blurriness of line—but the Little Swans’ pas de quatre, with eight legs scissoring and prancing in unison, is just right. Kudos to the cygnets.
Tresca Weinstein is a frequent contributor to the Times Union.
Swan Lake, must see Russian Ballet Theatre
The physically demanding yet graceful form of dance by “Russian Ballet Theatre” drew a small but lively crowd Oct. 15 at the Abraham Chavez Theatre, as it performed Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”
Patrons were beguiled and enthralled by intricate costumes, hand-painted sets and the powerful choreography brought to life by the performers.
Depicted in four acts, the ballet is based on the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and Swan Princess Odette, who was initially placed under an evil spell by the wizard Von Rothbart.
The performance ends in tragedy in some versions, but the one at the Abraham Chavez ended in triumph.
In all renditions, Odette spends her days as a swan swimming in a lake of tears and her nights in her beautiful human form.
Odette’s evil spell continued until a man who has never sworn his love to any girl, ends up loving her. That man was Siegfried.
Siegfried celebrates his coming of age after being presented with a crossbow by the Queen, symbolizing that he now must choose a wife.
Siegfried goes to the lake to hunt where he stumbles upon Odette and her flock of swans, all under the watchful eye of the evil wizard.
Rothbart masterminds a cunning plan to separate the two lovers where he introduces “Odile,” a character resembling Odette in every way to seduce the prince. When Siegfried realizes the deception, he fights the wizard instead, defeating him, as the swan turns into a beautiful princess to show the spell has been broken.
Second only to the Nutcracker, Swan Lake’s popularity rose once again after the acclaimed psychological thriller featuring Natalie Portman, “Black Swan,” which was released in 2010. The film earned Portman an Academy Award for “Best Actress in a Leading Role.”
Ukrainian prima ballerina, Olga Kifyak, performed the lead roles of Odette, the White Swan, and Odile, the Black Swan, following the traditional casting of performing both.
Sometimes performed by two separate dancers, Kifyak, once equated performing both to climbing Mt. Everest, due to its prowess in stamina, drama, and technicality. Eugeny Svetlitsa performed the principle role of Prince Siegfried.
The new production of the traditional Swan Lake ballet displayed influences of Flamenco dance adorned with hand-painted sets and stunning special effects makeup done by award-winning make-up artist Irina Strukova, known for her work in the hit movie “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Russian Ballet Theatre partnered with the nonprofit “PLUS1” for the evening ticket sales, donating $1 from every ticket sold to support local public–school teachers and classroom projects through DonorsChoose.org.
It is safe to say that Swan Lake is easily one of the most beloved ballets in the world. Due to the immense popularity of The Nutcracker around the holidays, Swan Lake probably is the second-most performed ballet. Both ballets feature glorious music by Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. So it makes sense that the Russian Ballet Theatre is doing a US tour of Swan Lake. There are multiple performances beginning in California on Thursday, September 19th at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.
In the ballet, Odette is a princess turned into a swan by a sorcerer. Prince Siegfried falls in love with Odette. At night she turns back into her human form and it was upon seeing this transformation that the romance begins. Other spells and deception awaits the leads in Swan Lake. While love triumphs, it isn’t necessarily the happiest of endings, but it is certainly romantic.
Olga Kifyak dances Odette and also the secondary character of Odie, who is presented to Siegfried in hopes of his falling in love with her. To do both parts is the ultimate for any ballerina dancing the role of Odette. Evgeny Svetlitsa dances the role of Prince Siegfried.
This production is choreographed by Nadezhda Kalinina and features hand-painted sets and over 150 hand-sewn costumes.
Like many other dancers, Olga Kifyak dreamed of being a ballet dancer.
Not only has she been successful in the medium, but Kifyak is also in the role of a lifetime in “Swan Lake.”
The production is being presented by the Russian Ballet Theatre, and the tour makes a stop at Popejoy Hall on Sunday, Oct. 13.
Kifyak dances the roles of the Odile (Black Swan) and the Odette (White Swan) in the production.
She says the roles take demanding technical mastery and emotional range to morph from vulnerable and pure Odette to audacious and deceptive Odile.
“This is a very strong role, because I have to change in the intermission,” Kifyak says. “The characters are complete opposites. For a dancer, this role is like trekking to Mount Everest. There’s so much happening.”
“Swan Lake” features the story of Odette, a princess who falls under the spell of an evil sorcerer.
Only Prince Siegfried’s devotion can save her.
The ballet combines pure romanticism and tragedy in a magical tale of love and deception.
Kifyak is also a 10-time International Ballet Competition medalist.
The Russian Ballet Theatre production of “Swan Lake” is a new version for the company.
Kifyak says it has new details.
“Our choreographer adds a prologue,” she says. “She uses it for the new choreography, which explains how the evil is so evil. We also revised the original some. There are five jesters instead of one. There is a beautiful dance that we’ve added.”
Kifyak began training in ballet at 12, which is later than other dancers.
There was something about ballet that struck a chord and kept her wanting to improve.
“This is a role of a lifetime for ballet dancers,” she says. “We train from an early childhood. We prepare ourselves physically everyday for a role like this. Being able to travel and bring the production to a new audience each day is amazing. Of course, we still have to keep ourselves in the best shape possible, both physically and mentally.”
It’s a performance that’s been mesmerizing audiences for over a century. Of course, we’re talking about Swan Lake, the captivating ballet based on a German fairy tale. This fall the Russian Ballet Theatre will be unveiling a stunning, new production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to 50 cities across the United States—with a stop in Kansas City at the Folly Theater on October 22nd.
Tchaikovsky’s powerful score tells the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and the Swan Princess, Odette, who is cursed to be a swan by day but a young woman at night. With some dazzling new choreography, hand-painted sets and time-honored Russian traditions, the show promises to be a cultural spectacle. “Swan Lake is a ballet of ballets. There is nothing like it,” says Gulya Hartwick, the Theatre’s co-producer. “If you only choose one ballet to see, it should be Swan Lake. Our new production of it is extra special for several reasons: our brilliant choreographer Nadezhda Kalinina did an amazing job interpreting some of the roles and adding new twists to it. We added prologue, we cheered up the ball and there are more surprises awaiting the audience. Set and costume designer Sergey Novikov made sure to support this timeless choreography with dazzling scenery and sets. There might be some downsides to it: our Rothbart, for example, might be too handsome for the evil sorcerer.”
The ballet troupe reads like a veritable who’s-who of internationally known dancers. The company features Olga Kifyak as Odette, Evgeny Svetlitsa as Prince Siegfried, Mikhail Ovcharov as the Jester, and Vasili Bogdan as Rothbart. “Every dancer brings something special—every one of them,” says Aliaksandra Horskaya, RBT co-producer and executive director. “Our cast is from all different parts of the world—Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, South Korea, Japan, Poland, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan—and everyone brings a little bit of their culture to the table.”
Choreographer Nadezhda Kalinina has staged more than 60 performances throughout the world and knows a thing or two about impressing an audience. She also treats the Russian classic with respect and adoration: iconic 32 Fuettes will be performed by the Black Swan in Act 3, of course. “It’s amazing to watch. Over the course of Swan Lake’s history, there were a few world-famous ballerinas who couldn’t do it. Our Prima’s Olga Kifyak technique is exquisite and she does it perfectly every time”, says Horskaya.
With more than 150 colorful, hand-sewn costumes, the show promises a dazzling array of costumes to relish. Hartwick also says keep a tissue handy as you’ll probably need it. Deceit and deception play a heavy hand in the timeless performance. “I always have tears in my eyes when the court, the Queen and the Prince realize that this has been a trap and Rothbart has deceived him, she says. “The Black Swan and Rothbart have this very strong evil body language of laughter. I feel terrible for the Prince—his heart is broken!”
The show promises to be one of the must-see performances of the fall. It’s no wonder that tickets are going fast. As Horskaya points out, it’s a one-night-only spectacle. “Each and every person on our team brings something very important to this show,” she says. “It’s a perfect combination of art, technique, beauty, and knowledge that we bring to the audience.”
DeKALB – The Russian Ballet Theatre is bringing a new production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” to the Egyptian Theatre.
The performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26. Tickets cost $35 to $75 and are available online at the Russian Ballet Theatre’s website, russianballettheatre.com, or the Egyptian Theatre’s website, egyptiantheatre.org. The Russian Ballet Theatre has partnered with PLUS1, an initiative that connects artists with causes, so that $1 from every ticket sold will support local public schoolteachers and their classroom projects in DeKalb and surrounding areas through DonorsChoose.org.
Based on a folk tale, “Swan Lake” tells the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and the Swan Princess Odette, who is cursed to be a swan by day but a young woman at night.
The Russian Ballet Theatre’s 2019 tour of “Swan Lake” features Olga Kifyak as Odette, Evgeny Svetlitsa as Prince Siegfried, Mikhail Ovcharov as the Jester and Vasili Bogdan as Rothbart.
The production is choreographed by Nadezhda Kalinina with Sergey Novikov serving as production designer and Irina Strukova as special effects makeup designer.
The production will feature time-honored Russian traditions while adding new choreography, handpainted sets, 150 hand-sewn costumes, artistic hair designs and special effects makeup.
“Although we are telling the classic story of ‘Swan Lake,’ there are tweaks here and there that make the show new and exciting,” co-producer Gulya Hartwick said. “We have all new choreography. Usually there is one jester, we have five of them. We did what we could to make the production more lively and more colorful.”
Hartwick said feedback from audiences on the tour has been overwhelmingly positive.
“One gentleman at a venue said that he has been a longtime fan of ballet,” Hartwick said. “He said he loved the performance, it was so beautiful. But he said that it wasn’t to his taste because it was too colorful. I thought, ‘Yes, good,’ and was happy when I heard that. It means we accomplished our goal.”
Hatwick described the target audience for “Swan Lake” as “any age, because it tells a timeless, classic story in a colorful and bold new way.”
“Usually, when kids come to a traditional ballet, they fall asleep 40 minutes into the show,” Hartwick said. “At our production, they’re all awake. They’re enchanted and engaged with the beautiful set, dancing and story. … We’ve had a lot of compliments about the costumes and sets and our cast is extremely strong and talented. It will be a beautiful production of the timeless tale.”