Saturday, February 04, 2006

Swan Lake (SF Ballet)

On Wednesday night I got myself a dress circle seat for San Francisco Ballet's Swan Lake. I know hardly anything about ballet, but I know that at least I like Tchaikovsky's music for this one. The swan was danced by Yuan Yuan Tan, who looked just unnaturally skinny to me. You could see it was no effort for her male partners to lift her! In her best moments, she moves very smoothly, fluidly & elegantly. When she flaps her arms in imitation of a bird wing, it looks like she has more than the usual number of joints in her arms. I didn't get the impression that she was a powerful dancer, though. In the 3rd act she had one unsteady moment landing on her feet.

To my uninformed eye, even a full length ballet seems thin on story line. For long stretches, we watch peasant dances or ethnic dances that are complete onto themselves but aren't integrated in any way into the action. The characters of the mother & the tutor seem to just walk around a lot.

I was probably most entertained by watching one of the solo male dancers in the 1st act twirl & leap & sweep in a big circle around the stage & also by 6 children doing a dance together, especially when the 2 boys got out of sync & went jumping up in the air alternately instead of in unison. It was kind of charming!

The conductor did a good job of pacing the tempos for the benefit of the dancers, though at times this meant the music plodded along almost too deliberately. It was a little surprising to hear Tchaikovsky's Serenade for violin interpolated in the last act. But this provides the prince & the swan a chance to dance together some more before the end.

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