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PGC Blog
A Deliquescent Swan Lake from Pennsylvania Ballet

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on Mar 13, 2018 10:30am | comments


The masterpiece Swan Lake is now at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia until March 18. Artistic Director Angel Corella has choreographed a beautiful, new version of the classic for Pennsylvania Ballet. Basing his version upon the classic version by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, Mr. Corella has created a sublime work beautifully presented and finely danced. The design team of Benjamin Tyrrell and Michael Korsch have created a dreamy, pastel world somewhere in Europe at some time in the past. The costumes are beautiful, and the sets evocative of fairy-tale fantasy.

Mr. Corella discussed the ballet and his approach to it in a pre-performance talk before the March 10 matinee performance. He has chosen to mix his principal dancers with soloists and corps members in leading roles, saying that he believes all members of the company are great dancers. He also charmingly and effectively discussed the plot of Swan Lake for those who might not know it as well as for those who already know it well. His talk was illuminating on all fronts.

The story begins when Prince Siegfried (here danced by corps member Jack Thomas) comes of age, with his widowed mother, the queen, gifting him with a crossbow and the commission that he must marry. There will be a gala to which princesses from around the world have been invited. It is from these that Siegfried must choose his bride. Naturally, the Prince scoffs at the idea, preferring to kill something with his crossbow and hanging out with his male companions. Of course, he must marry as it is his duty to continue the royal line. He is troubled until he happens upon a magnificent swan which he aims to kill until it turns into a young woman (the celestial Oksana Maslova as Odette). She has been enchanted to remain a swan under the magical thrall of Von Rothbart, a lurid swamp magus (here played by the estimable etoile James Ihde). When the Prince fell upon Von Rothbartís avian harem by chance, nothing would ever be the same again since both Swan Queen and Prince instantly fall in love.

Jack Thomas as the Prince cut a slim and boyish figure which belied the fact that he could and did dance very well. He looked like a calla lily, but one made of steel. The many daunting Bolshoi lifts Mr. Corella created for him caused him no observable strain at all, with no mussing of his enviable mane of hair. Oksana Maslova as Odette was all that we expected and more. Her nobility of carriage and deliquescent movements were exciting to behold. †Ms Maslovaís interpretation of the fishy seductress Odile was provocatively sadistic. From her teasing the gullible youth, to her secret, insulting whispers to her master, all were done with eclat. The often ungrateful part of Von Rothbart was here given some dancing. Mr. Ihde thrilled us with his easy nobility and manly carriage. In the Fourth Act we realize the bitter truth. Von Rothbart was meant for her love, not the callow Prince. Odette melted upon Von Rothbartís body in a breathtaking moment of climax. Doomed by his being a pond scum demon, he is supplanted by a boy, and, now, all must tragically die. The swan corps was beautiful, and danced their roles flawlessly. Each woman appeared to be a living gyroscope, enchanted by a magic spell.

Odette, drowned in the lake of her motherís tears, with her Prince following her to suicide, were quickly followed by the broken Von Rothbart, who sizzled and smoked in his death throes in the mud. The swan maidens appeared to die after seeing the two lovers rise to heaven. A magnificent tragedy.

For further information on this production of Swan Lake and their production next month of Grace and Grandeur, April 5-8 by Pennsylvania Ballet, visit

Photo Credit:
Alexander Iziliaev

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Lillian DiPiazza and Corps de Ballet
Member Aleksey Babayev in Swan Lake.

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