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The Real Swan Lake: Colorado Ballet Outshines Black Swan

Swan Lake
Swan Lake
Allen Birnbach

While Colorado Ballet enticed the "Black Swan" loving crowd with it's parallel advertisements and marketing hooks such as Which Swan Are You? - the dancers proved that this classic piece really is about more than just the lights, smoke, and Natalie Portman masturbating in a bathtub. (For the record, Portman had a dance double - standout American Ballet Theatre soloist Sarah Lane, who was not even given a nod during Portman's Oscar acceptance speech.)

You see, Swan Lake, to those of us who truly love dance, is the epitome of a full length classical ballet. It's the ballet with the Tchaikovsky score so famous that we can't help but tap our toes and get goose bumps during the Coda of Act Two, when the swans are chug-chug-chugging across the stage in all of their precise corps de ballet fury. It's the performance that requires several pairs of pointe shoes for the ballerina dancing the part of Odette/Odile because she's working so hard. It's an emotional high in the world of classical ballet - with a combination of daytime-television-esq forbidden love and Harry Potter-style funk (the women are swans by day, humans by night, and ruled by a freakish looking human-bird hybrid named Von Rothbart.)

Colorado Ballet, as expected, executed Swan Lake perfectly. Yes, of course, Maria Mosina is a badass. We know this because she accomplishes multiple foutees en pointe flawlessly, and has arms that are so fluid in the state of her swan ridden angst that she almost looks like a jelly fish. However, I can't help but ask - when are we going to see Chandra Kuykendall or Sharon Weiner tackle an opening evening performance? My cheating heart yearned for Dana Benton's luxurious extensions - she always reaches just that little extra inch to conclude every jump and jete- and I wondered how she would have commanded the character of Odette/Odile. Her confident but unassuming stage presence in Act One as one of the Pas de Trois ladies just teased me and left me wanting more. For such a small person, she truly utilizes the stage space, and both her and Asuka Sasaki made the difficult petite allegro sections look effortless.

One of the unique elements of Swan Lake is the the way in which this piece showcases the corps de ballet dancers. Odette wouldn't be the heroin that she is without her posse of molting gal-pals. I look forward to watching The Four Little Swans pound out impossibly perfect piqués (and nail it!) spliced with a series of échappées and corresponding head movement just as much as I look forward to the weepy pas de deux between Prince Sigfriend and Odette. The corps work is not easy - it's tiring, it's relentlessly precise, and the dancers who execute it deserve just as much recognition for their hard work as the rest of the cast.

Act Three features the famous Black Swan Pas de Deux, dripping with seduction, tension, and that ridiculously powerful score; is it wrong to say that I prefer Odile to Odette? She's assertive, strong, and knows what she wants. Mosina did an excellent job of portraying both swans, and the smirk on her face during her Odile rendition added the perfect touch.

Other elements of the performance added even more magic - the Colorado Symphony Orchestra delivering the goods with their rendition of Tchaikovsky's score, the phenominal sets and costumes courtesy of Ballet West, and the smokey scene that began Act Four.

Colorado Ballet, not surprisingly, nails it again with Swan Lake. Denverites are truly lucky to have dance, sets, costumes, lighting, and an opera house of the magnitude that Colorado Ballet commands at their fingertips, and should certainly take advantage of such an opportunity in the coming weeks. Tickets range from $20 to $140, with remaining performances as follows:

Sun 10/16/11 2:00PM: Ellie Caulkins Opera House Wed 10/19/11 6:30PM: Ellie Caulkins Opera House Fri 10/21/11 7:30PM: Ellie Caulkins Opera House Sat 10/22/11 2:00PM: Ellie Caulkins Opera House Sat 10/22/11 7:30PM: Ellie Caulkins Opera House Sun 10/23/11 2:00PM: Ellie Caulkins Opera House

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