From Fowl Play to Fouettés: Swan Lake Lives

By Victoria Looseleaf

“How many ‘Swan Lakes’ can you see? How many ‘Giselles’? That’s what a cranky German asked me one year in Havana where we were both attending that elegantly decaying city’s International Ballet Festival. “How many Beethoven 9ths can you listen to,” we replied, “cuz it depends who’s performing it and what production it is, blablabla.”


Well, we’re happy to report we never tire of Swan Lake (or at least almost never), in part because of Tchaikovsky’s glorious music. Thus did we look forward to Los Angeles Ballet’s premiere of this classical, er, war-bird, this past weekend at UCLA’s Royce Hall. At only six years old, LAB has gained a foothold, no pun intended, in our fickle city, and is also garnering quite a following in the process. (Click here for some of our recent LAB coverage; click here for earlier reportage).

In any case, trust us when we say we’ve seen our share of Swan Lakes, including the above-mentioned Cuban mounting, several Russian offerings, among them the Bolshoi‘s and Mariinsky‘s (cover shot of the latter’s Diana Vishneva by Gene Schiavone; click here for our 2008 LAT feature on the prima), a San FranciscoBallet production and a few from our East Coast compatriots, such as American Ballet Theatre‘s version starring Gillian Murphy, above right…and the list goes on. But for those who aren’t able to catch a live performance of the Petipa/Ivanov masterpiece, there are, propitiously, DVDs galore.

The astonishing Cuban ballerina, Viengsay Valdes, a protégé of Alicia Alonso, demonstrating her flawless technique, here with Elier Bourzac.

Indeed, our friends at Video Artists International (VAI), have a slew of classic releases, including a Bolshoi Theatre production from 1957 featuring the über-pliant Maya Plisetskaya, dancing with her Siegfried, Nicolai Fadeyechev (“This Swan Lake is a treasure,” touted the New York Times); and, from 1992, The Bolshoi’s Nina Ananiashvili pirouetting with the Perm State Ballet, partnered with Nicolai’s son, Alexei Fadeyechev. VAI also has various Swan Lake excerpts in its enchanting series, Great Stars of Russian Ballet, Volumes 1-4.

How then does L.A. Ballet’s rendition compare? Find out for yourselves by clicking here for our LA Times review. And don’t be afraid to ruffle your own feathers: Check out one of the troupe’s remaining four performances to see what this fantasy world of good and evil avians is about. After all, without art, our lives would be emotionally bereft. LA Ballet photo, Reed Hutchinson

P.S. We can’t resist Babs Streisand as Fanny Brice in ‘Funny Girl!’

About Victoria Looseleaf

Victoria Looseleaf is an award winning arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, KUSC-FM radio, Dance Magazine, Performances Magazine and other outlets. She roams the world covering dance, music, theater, film, food and architecture. Have pen - and iPad - will travel! Her latest book, "Isn't It Rich? A Novella In Verse" is now available on Amazon. Thank you for reading! Cheers...
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