The Ukraine based Royal Russian Ballet returned to India this year with their most popular production, Swan Lake. After the immense success
Swan Lake by TchaikovskyBeautiful, yet not breathtaking
Swan Lake Ballet
The Ukraine based Royal Russian Ballet returned to India this year with their most popular production, Swan Lake. After the immense success of the same musical ballet in 2017, Navrasa Duende decided to bring the Russian troupe back to India. This time, not only for Western classical music fans in Delhi, but also for the elite of Mumbai, Ahemdabad and Kolkata. A total of 25 shows have been agreed upon. Five in each city.
Swan Lake is a ballet designed on the the musical work of Tchaikovsky, one of the most brilliant and avant-garde musical composers of the time. His discordant tunes have the ability to speak to our flustered souls in a way that all the soothing and mellow Western classical music of the romantic eras cannot. The piece of music, was later converted into a play with the eternal theme of – ‘the power of true love’.
As ambitious as Tchaikovsky’s approach to music is, so is the idea of accompanying a piece of music so varied in themes, with the rather pompous and conformist dance form of ballet. However, the two worked like a charm, and have been attracting audiences to the theaters since the past 150 years.
Of course, a Friday at the film theater and a Friday at the ballet are two very separate experiences. Paradoxically, film is a more familiar mode of art to us than theater, which now appears foreign and slightly unnatural. A ballet is a more formal event, with an air of aristocracy hanging loosely in the air. The attendees being more cordial than usual towards their fellow audiences, rejoicing in the knowledge that they all share a common love for the arts. The whole event is always much more than only the dance and music. It’s an introduction to the 17th century Russian upper class.
The cost per seat ranges from one thousand to ten thousand, depending on how far you are from the stage. The rest is relatively simple, drive to the auditorium and show your passes to the playfully masked ushers and take your designated spots with a brochure in hand, explaining to you the premise. The play is composed by Tchaikovsky and directed by Anatoliy Kazatskiy. The troupe has 60 odd world class ballet dancers.
The play is divided into four acts. The first act focuses on how Prince Seigfried cannot find a suitable partner and decides that he shall travel to a mysterious lake where women trapped in a swan’s body reside. The second act tells us how Seigfried is spellbound by the beauty of Odette, (the white swan) and asks her to come to the palace, where he shall wed her.
After a brief interval, we are presented the third act where an evil sorcerers’ daughter, Odile (the black swan), in the guise of Odette, tricks the prince into marrying her. The last act is an exciting climax where either treachery or love will emerge victorious.
The theme of the show is very basic and repeatedly exploited in different media over and over since the beginning of time. However, the magic lies in the presentation. The ballet is lovely, and certainly something different for an Indian audience. Be it the perfection in their dance moves or the finesse with which they execute their sequences, or even the coordination between the dancers. The Russian troupe is flawless and wonderful to watch. Their footwork is captivating. Their toes are perfectly pointed and their arcs are marvelous.
Dance is inherently fluid and expressive. Russian ballet proves that there is beauty in conformity and symmetry, even in the backdrop of a thunderous Tchaikovsky.
Especially interesting were acts two and four. Twenty four beautiful ballerinas dancing in perfect unison, is more than enough to get you through another few weeks of drudgery. A special mention for the court jester, played by Gavryshkiv Andrii, who made everyone laugh with his precise and complex ballet moves, as well as bursts of rhythmic expression.
However, the most important reason to watch Swan Lake is prima ballerina Matsak Natalia, who plays both Odette and Odile. Dance has never been more expressive than when she dives gracefully as a delicate Odette or stomps aggressively as the evil Odile. Her versatility, and her complete control over her art-form is certainly praise-worthy.
However, the Swan Lake production is not without a few disappointments. The stage and lighting were underwhelming. The scenes were a little drawn out and not entirely engrossing to our buzzing twenty first century minds. The dancers were repeatedly breaking character and therefore interrupting the story. The script, which is very generic in the first place, was not at all tweaked to bring something new to the stage. It may seem a little dated to the younger minds. Especially, to those who have been introduced to the play by way of the popular Natalie Portman psychosexual thriller, ‘The Black Swan’, which was a gripping, and beautifully complex ride from start to finish.
Overall, Swan Lake is delightful. It’s beautiful to watch just as the impressionist paintings that the troupe dances infront of. Tchaikovshy’s composition keeps us (as well as the dancers), on our toes. The footwork and the complexity of steps accompanied by the perfection in their execution is the hero of the show. But is it a good option this Friday? Well, it certainly isn’t inexpensive and sadly doesn’t have a very high entertainment value. You can easily find louder laughs or happier smiles in something not as costly as tickets to Swan Lake. The show might seem a little underwhelming to those who have no previous exposure to ballet. Those under the age of fourteen will find themselves lost and bored after just two acts. Additionally, their is no live orchestra and the stage is disappointingly small.
However, for those who are true Western classical music connoisseurs, or those who have finer tastes in the arts, you will enjoy the show thoroughly. We give it 3/5.