Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake: Would Be A Tragedy To Miss

Act I Swan Lake ©Robert Perdziola
Act I Swan Lake ©Robert Perdziola

Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake is magical.  As a child I used to have these beautifully illustrated Russian fairy tales.  The were full of tiny details some that you noticed and others that you just felt as they whisked you away into the story.  Robert Perdziola’s renderings of the costumes and set design have that same feeling.  They draw you into the magical, mysterious world of the story.

One of my childhood books. This is from The Tale of Tsarevich Ivan, The Fire Bird and the Grey Wolf.
One of my childhood books. This is from The Tale of Tsarevich Ivan, The Fire Bird and the Grey Wolf.

Technically, the dancers were spot on.  I loved the set because I prefer a large open stage and the flatter back drop of a set.  The corps de ballet was gorgeous and, for the most part, exceptionally well synchronized.  Some of the dancers, such as Rachel Cossar, with her long limbs and extensions evoked the role of the swan especially well. The men in the first act, despite being of various stature were beautifully in unison and the corps to ballet did their part in keeping the vision of swans gliding through the water alive.

Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Crio along with the corps de ballet.  Photos by Rosalie O'Connor
Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio along with the corps de ballet. Photos by Rosalie O’Connor

As soon as she steps on the stage, and until she floats off of it, Misa Kuranaga reminds you why she is a principal with her gorgeous performance as the white swan as well as the black swan.  Despite the fact that this prima ballerina is so petite, with her arms she never once breaks the fantasy that she is a swan.  With her angled arm and perfectly crooked wrist,  Ms. Kuranaga tricks your eyes into seeing a long-necked swan as she spins, leaps and seemingly glides across the lake.  The slight difference in her dancing as the black swan does just enough to let you know there was something awry about this unexpected guest at the ball.

Lia Cirio also shines on opening night, and I can only imagine seeing her perform as Odile (the black swan) and Odette (the white swan). Ms. Cirio fills Tchaikovsky’s music so that you can almost see the last note teeter and fall off her fingertips as she dances.  Tchaikovsky’s music is one that you breathe in like the mist off the lake.  It runs through your body as it does through you head and you will find yourself humming the music for days to come.  The folksy character dances, as in the Nutcracker transport you to far-off lands and have you tapping your feet to the heavy beats.  Ashley Ellis will also be performing as Odette/Odile for this season’ Swan Lake.  I had a chance to see her in rehearsal and what I love about each principal is that they bring a very different feel to the role each bringing life to the swans in different ways.

Ashley Ellis warming up to rehearse Swan Lake.
Ashley Ellis warming up to rehearse Swan Lake.

Jeffrey Cirio,  as Prince Siegfried had a pantomime that matched his dancing.  Without over-acting, Mr. Cirio has you on the edge of your seat willing him to not fall into the trap that has been set by sorcerer Van Rothbart.  He partners Ms Kuranaga beautifully and seamlessly while carrying the audience on his journey as he leaps across the stage.

Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio.  A duet with the white swan and Prince Siegfried.  Photos by Rosalie O'Connor
Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio. A duet with the white swan and Prince Siegfried. Photos by Rosalie O’Connor

In addition to the music and dancers, there is one more presence on the stage: the costumes.  Each piece, from the swans’ feathered tutus to the Queen’s elegant gown, is so carefully designed and precisely done, with detailed embroidery, carefully placed crystals, that the costumes enhance the magic of the story.  At moments, the movement of the dresses, and twinkle of the bodices are an extension of the dancers themselves capturing your imagination and transporting you right to the lake, the castle, and the ball.

The elegant, costumes with details that matter even if you might not see them all from the audience.
The elegant, costumes with details that matter even if you might not see them all from the audience.
The costumes keep on dancing almost as an extension of the choreography.
The costumes keep on dancing almost as an extension of the choreography.

You may be thinking that it is Nutcracker season, and that is definitely true.  Not to take away from the beautiful production that Boston Ballet does, I just have to share a few thoughts about Nutcracker.  I understand that the Nutcracker is a holiday classic.  For many families seeing The Nutcracker is a winter tradition.  Children in every city and village perform versions of the Nutcracker with their ballet schools.  What I don’t understand is why families stop at the Nutcracker.  Good Night Moon is a classic children’s book and we have all read it over and over again, but that doesn’t mean we don’t read other classics or pick up newer children’s books.

For those of you who are ready for something more, Swan Lake is the perfect first step out of Drosselmeyer’s world and into the greater world of ballet.  If you are bringing small children to the ballet, I always advise that you should know your child.  Plan to leave early if the performance is too long for them to fully appreciate it.  And, with Swan Lake know that it is a tragedy.

Swan Lake will run at the Boston Opera House through November 16th.  For details about how to get tickets (including discounts) I share some ideas here.

Ashley Ellis and Eris Nezha ©Eric Levin in Boston Ballet's Swan Lake
Ashley Ellis and Eris Nezha ©Eric Levin in Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake

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