Bolshoi Ballet to showcase a beloved work“Swan Lake is always changing,” wrote George Balanchine in his book, “Complete Stories of the Great Ballets.” “That is as it should be. Tradition in performance is, unlike teaching, discontinuous. ... It is always interrupted, depends on shifts of directorships, changes of parts, whims of choreographers, dancers, designers, musicians and the public.”
While the latest version of “Swan Lake” that comes to most people’s minds is Matthew Bourne’s, with an all-male cast of swans, another one to watch is from the Bolshoi Theater of Russia. The epicenter of ballet in Russia, Bolshoi Ballet returns to Korea on April 21 to 24 to stage “Swan Lake” at the newly renovated Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.
The principals, Galina Stepanenko and Ekaterina Shipulina, will be taking on the role of Odette/Odile, while Vladimir Neporozhny and Ruslan Skvortsov will be performing Prince Siegfried with Dmitry Belogolovtsev and Ruslan Pronin as the evil genius.
The performance, based on choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, marks 10 years since Ms. Stepanenko last performed in Korea, and is a first for the company’s new artistic director, Alexei Ratmansky. Ratmansky, a choreographer and dancer grounded in classical dance but also noted for contemporary dance, took the reins Jan. 1.
He has already promised company-wide changes such as inviting international guest teachers and choreographers and encouraging young Russian talent in modern dance.
Bolshoi Ballet has a large repertoire, but “Swan Lake’s” story of love and treachery is one of its most loved. According to PBS, one out of every 10 ballet performances in Russia is of “Swan Lake.”
In Korea, any time a local company performs “Swan Lake,” tickets sell out, or come close, note organizers at the JoongAng Ilbo.
The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and the SBS network are also helping to organize the performance, which brings a tour party of 130 people, with 90 ballerinas.
But “Swan Lake” wasn’t always this popular. More than a century ago, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the score for the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow with choreography by Julius Reisinger. The debut on March 4, 1877, was far from a rousing success. But countless choreographers saw potential in Tchaikovsky’s score and staged different renditions.
It was the 1895 staging ― choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov as choreographers with Tchaikovsky’s brother, Modeste, helping revise the libretto and the score ― at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg that ensured the ballet’s future success. Sadly, Tchaikovsky died before witnessing this performance.
“Swan Lake” has grown to become a tradition for the ballet-loving public, and a chance for greats such as Alicia Markova, Margot Fonteyn, Maia Plisetskaya and Natalia Makarova to show their skills in the star roles.
Although “Swan Lake” has become a classic, it is a work that is always being honed. Balanchine also said, “I suspect that artists will want always to change [‘Swan Lake’], to remake it for themselves. That is what many of us have done, and I hope will keep on doing.”
by Joe Yong-hee
For more information, visit the Web site www.balletbolshoi.com.