The National Ballet Theatre of Odessa performed a one-night show of “Swan Lake” on Feb. 8 at the Hershey Theatre, in its first tour in the United States.
Fifty-five dancers from Ukraine and Russia performed in the ballet, and it was a thrill to sit close to the stage, to watch up close the dancers’ facial expressions, the movement of the dances and the intricacies of the costumes.
Since this was the first time I had the chance to see “Swan Lake,” I researched a little history about the ballet and what the story was about.
“Swan Lake” is a love story with different endings. Each ballet company chooses their own way to end the story. One version ends with the characters’ deaths, others feature a “happily ever after” for the white swan princess Odette and Prince Siegfried, who defeats the evil magician Baron Von Rothbart who involves his daughter, the black swan, Odile.
Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s choreography was performed that night in Hershey. The music was recorded, there was no live orchestra. Even though the ballet was not as majestic or had the pageantry of the Royal Ballet productions of “Swan Lake,” the dancers were splendid, graceful and beautiful to watch as they pirouetted, swirled and danced across the stage.
I was mesmerized by the dancing, and the first two acts flew by. Just to watch the performers do these amazing jetes and arabesque moves was pure joy. Pavlo Gryts performed as the Jester, and it was an enjoyment to watch as he executed grand jetes and pas de chats consecutively across the stage. The dance movements could be compared to any gymnastic performance seen at the Olympics.
The prima ballerina, Elena Dobryanskaya, played both parts of the white swan Odette and the black swan Odile. Dobryanskaya has demonstrated her talent and ability to perform both characters. She was breathtaking in her white feathered costume. Her performance of a swan was a flowing motion of lithe and elegance as she danced en pointe across the stage with her arms swaying in fluid motion.
While playing the part of the white swan, Dobryanskaya standing pointe would move her legs so the tail feathers would ruffle. Prince Siegfried was performed by Sergey Dotsenko, who was nimble and smooth while dancing a pas de deux with Odette.
It was also a delight to watch four dancers portray swans and perform a complicated dance in Act Two. The dance is called “Danse des petits cygnes” meaning “Dance of the Little Swans.” The four dancers moved across stage with arms crossed holding each other’s hands, and moving sideways across the stage in unison completing 16 pas de chats. I giggled with pure enjoyment watching the dance; it was so perfect. The dancers made it look so easy as they danced across the stage. The blue lighting against the backdrop of the lake made the swan dancers look ethereal as they stood perfectly still as Act Two ended.
In Act 3, the prima ballerina danced to the part of Odile, and she was stunning in her black costume. It was just mind blowing to watch Dobryanskaya perform one of the hardest ballet dances, “the fouetté,” where the prima ballerina spins on her toes 32 times while bending the other leg into different positions and her arms are swaying above her head. When Dobryanskaya was finished she wore the biggest grin on her face.
I went to my first ballet with no expectations and I was enamored. The physical skills that are needed to stand on one’s toes while doing many different ballet positions that are turned into a dance is incredible. To watch the dancers perform a repetition of steps to the choreographer’s music while keeping in step and conformity with each other is just as worthy as any sport.
While doing research on the different dances involving duets, trios, solos and the entire ballet group, I discovered how much training, time and sacrifice it takes to become a great ballerina. I will see another ballet just to watch the artistry and talent of the dancers.
Kimberly Johnson is a student at Shippensburg University and taking the Reviewing the Arts for Publication class.