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Texas Ballet Theater's Swan Lake delights Bass Hall audiences

Lucas Priolo and Carolyn Judson as Prince Siegfried and Odette/Odile
Photo by: Steven Visneau

Swan Lake by Texas Ballet Theater

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Swan Lake is such a classic ballet that we are "over-spoiled" with how many times many of us have seen it re-done over and over throughout the years. Each performance becomes a benchmark to each other and on the rare occasion that the dancers can execute it correctly we are reminded about how big this ballet score is. I mean it is the Burger KING of ballets. The May 30th performance of Swan Lake at Bass Hall continues into this evening with two performances today. Performed by the Texas Ballet Theater and accompanied by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra audiences are in for a real treat as both groups continue to support each other and boost the arts and music in North Texas.

What do you know about Swan Lake?

The original score was created in the 1870's by Tchaikovsky and was performed in Moscow under the title, "The Lake of the Swans." It tells the story of a princess named Odette who is turned into a swan by the evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart. At night Odette turns back into a beautiful young woman where Prince Siegfried sees her and falls in love with her. Odette tells the Prince that in order to break the spell, a man pure of heart must pledge his love for her. As the story continues, Rothbart finds out about their love and tricks the young prince at formal celebration. Rothbart casts a spell on his daughter Odile, making her look like Odette. Prince Siegfried sees Odile and professes his love for her as Odette watches from a window. All the elements of a love story with heroes and heroines and antagonists and secondary antagonists. The performances we see today are due to some revisions of the original score by Ricardo Driggo as well as music and choreography changes by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in 1895. Both have distinct dance styles that have created one of the most difficult and yet coveted ballerina roles: Odette/Odile. At the end Odette chooses to kill herself and soon after the prince realizes his mistake and follows suit.

Act 1

In Friday night's performance, audiences were opened with how Odette (danced by Carolyn Judson) gets turned into a swan by Rothbart. As we head into scene 1 it's the opening party scene introducing the now 21 year old Prince Siegfried portrayed by Lucas Priolo. Priolo never misses a beat from beginning to end entering onto the stage with a lot of energy and effectively securing his spot as hero. The dancers during scene 1 especially the Pas de Trois including Katelyn Clenaghan, Robing Bangert and Simon Wexler showed extreme fortitude and control. Wexler executes his jumps with such dexterity and technical efficiency. It created a very vibrant scene and set the energy to relax into the mellow second scene as the plot line is formed.

Scene 2 is where we have the young prince with his new crossbow watching swans in a lake when he sees one of the swans turn into a beautiful maiden. Priolo and Judson have wonderful chemistry together and Priolo is subtle yet commanding and his effortless partnering skills are what make this duo so brilliant in form. As the story goes on this pair just gets better and better together. Judson is exquisite and ethereal and has the face for the swan. I must also say that the costuming for the Odette and Odile are wonderful contrasts and intimate details that audiences will love.

Act II

As we head into Act II and the first scene, the cast of dancers have to portray a grand ballroom of sorts with princesses from around the world by which the young prince must choose a bride even if his thoughts are with Odette. This scene is difficult as it can appear busy with so many dancers on stage and so the transitions need to be smooth and on point. Not an easy task with the live music accompaniment of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. I can't say enough about how well the FWSO played in tonight's evening and at most parts I forgot we were listening to live music. The score itself is a challenge and can be overpowering and the FWSO made sure not to overpower the scenes playing out on stage. The solos were on point and you could infinitely hear even in the top decks the beautiful flutes and woodwind solos with ease. During scene 1 of this act you get an international treat with dancing styles and choreography represented by the contrasting styles of Petipa and Ivanov. The dancers representing Spain were very much in synch with Robin Bangert, Max Caro and Joamanuel Velazquez. I thought their performance was power and especially enjoyed Bangert's style - very alluring. With each of the princesses representing different parts of the world the dancers have the difficult task of remaining in synch through each performance. This is the battle that plagues Swan Lake as uniformity is necessary without it, the sequence is thrown off. I think the dancers got better each time and it is not easy to do. I don't even know how they managed to catch a breath. The arrival of Rothbart and Odile show Priolo's performance in expressing his undying love to who he believes is Odette. Scene 2 of Act 2 is the most emotionally gripping for the two dancers. Priolo and Judson draw the crowd in and when Rothbart arrives (danced by Tim O'Keefe) and raises a storm at the two lovers and you see the dramatic and final conclusion.

Supporting both the arts in North Texas with both live performances from the Texas Ballet Theater and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, audiences were in for a real treat. Texas Ballet Theater under the art direction of Ben Stevenson has been bringing fantastic shows and has closed out this season on a high note with such a wonderful production of Swan Lake.

Today and tonight are the last performances for Swan Lake at Bass Hall. In the 2014-15 season, Texas Ballet Theater will have two productions with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra: The Sleeping Beauty and The Merry Widow. To purchase tickets in advance just visit Texas Ballet Theater.