August 20, 2014
May 17, 2012
03:17 PM

Bolshoi’s Swan Lake jetés to great heights

Marking its return to Toronto after more than three decades, the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet opened a five-night run of Swan Lake at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts Tuesday night. The story (which will be vaguely familiar to anyone who saw Black Swan) follows the romance of Prince Siegfried and a maiden named Odette who is turned into an aquatic bird by the Evil Genius, a meddling sorcerer determined to thwart Siegfried’s fidelity to his one true love. 

The ballet was premiered in Moscow in 1877 by the Bolshoi with original composition by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. One hundred and thirty-five years and countless adaptations, abstractions and modernizations later, we were excited at the prospect of seeing the performance in a more traditional rendition — and we weren’t disappointed.

The curtain opens on a scene of pomp and splendour as the royal family celebrates Siegfried’s birthday and he is made a knight. Dancer Ruslan Skvortsov is certainly an impressive prince — innately regal, he jetés to impossible heights (seriously, at one point we were looking for strings) — but right away attention is drawn to his more compelling counterpart, the Evil Genius, danced by Vladislav Lantratov. The animated soloist manages to make every step look effortless (he can do about a million fouetté turns like he’s scratching his head) while still infusing his movements with the energy and — dare we say — passion that Skvortsov lacks at times. 

But most enchanting is the first moment we encounter Odette, danced by Maria Aleksandrova, with her swan-tourage in the second scene. The fluidity and flexibility of her limbs really seem other-worldly and we’re swept away into the realm of fairy tale. Later, when she plays the part of Odette’s double Odile (the black swan), Aleksandrova really comes into her element — her movements become sharper, bolder and even more expressive, and she smoulders in the pas de deux with Skvortsov — the dance during which Odile seduces Siegfried into choosing her as his bride. 

The show closed to a well deserved standing ovation, but we couldn’t help feeling a little sad to notice the theatre was about third empty. Seriously, people — get out and see this ballet. It’s only here for three more nights and it could be another 33 years before the Bolshoi bourrée back into town.

Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E., 855-872-7669. To May 19. $71-$255.

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