Tchaikovsky’s beloved classic, “Swan Lake,” has been repeated so many times, one would think it would become rote. That is not the case for this production under the direction of the Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto. She has sparked a new vision for this play to make it her own and to have theatergoers see through a new lens this wonderful story. Cuatto, who will retire at the end of this season, has created her ballet swan song which is a lovely tribute for her career.
Nicole Kelsch, who plays Odette and Odile, and is also set to become the new Artistic Director, brings a pure essence to the role of Odette, the princess transformed into a swan. Literally co-opting the swan’s movements in perfect harmony and balance expressing her feelings through her face, hands and body fully. The choreography and her leaps and spins across the stage allow the theatergoers to lose themselves in the moment and be drawn alongside the beautiful cadence. She also plays Odile, Rothbart’s daughter, with a haughtiness, and exclusionary actions toward the Prince (Alexander Collen), who is flummoxed.
The entire production is epic, their beautiful movements and performance help tell the story.
The sorcerer and villain in the plot, Von Rothbart (Richard Link), masterfully conducts his evil deeds like a symphony and controls others as if marionettes. Link brings to life the devil’s advocate in Von Rothbart, as he takes control of his domain, pulling Kelsch away from sometimes forcibly removing her and carrying her off. Collen fights honorably against the manipulation as a whirling dervish spins around trying to destroy. Collen plays Prince Siegfried who is quite expressive and impressive. A kept man being unwillingly betrothed is revealed through his dance which involves his entire body from his fingertips to his toes. You can almost hear the crack of the heartbreak for his passion for Odette as he lies motionless and fallen on the floor. At the performance’s end, he lies crumpled on the floor, heartbroken. You can see and feel the chemistry between him and Kelsch.
Jalen Williams brings certain strength and empathy to the Prince’s friend Benno, and Victoria Siracusa and Hayley-Ann Vasco shine brightly in their solo dances, spinning and leaping right into our hearts. Christina Fleming is in charge as the Prince’s mother, the Queen, explaining her demands through gestures that her son needs to marry. Daliana Gutierrez offers a light interlude and a fun break in the action.
The set was functional and inventive, the Set Designer, Dianna Cuatto and Brian Walker have created a virtual world of wonder that allowed for quick transitions. The costumes merged well with this virtual world created by Costume Designer Alyssa Johnson-Taylor’s. Colorful spinning outfits dancing in unison with the melodies. The swan and the raven symbolizing good versus evil and the Spanish Prince look like a matador. The Lighting Designer Stacie Johnson-Leske lighting effects heighten the atmosphere imparting a soft, magical quality for the dancing. The strobe lights flash during the Prince and Von Rothbart’s battle was a grand effect.
The entire production is epic, their beautiful movements and performance help tell the story. This production of “Swan Lake” is a fantastic way for Cuatto to proclaim and celebrate her 17 years as Artistic Director.
Running Time: Three hours, including two 15-minute intermissions.