This guest post is written by my sister, Emily Earle. A graduate student at Lesley University, my graceful sibling has been dancing since the age of three. Read her review of the final dress rehearsal for Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake …
Everything is indeed beautiful at the ballet this spring!
Mikko Nissinen’s resplendent Swan Lake returned to the Boston Opera House this past Friday, April 29, offering awe-inspiring movement, music, sets, costumes and technical accomplishments that transport the audience out of time and into an emotional fantasy.
Fortuitously, I was brought along as a guest of the Trendy Trainer (full disclosure: she’s my sister and it was my birthday on Friday. Thanks, TTT!) to view the final dress rehearsal.
I’ve actually had a unique connection to Swan Lake since before I was born. My mother had Boston Ballet season tickets and attended a performance while she was pregnant with me so I possibly absorbed Tchaikovsky through that and when I was growing up, I couldn’t sleep unless the music was playing on a cassette tape next to my bed. I was also a ballerina for many years myself, from age four to eighteen, spending hours after school and on weekends at the barre and en pointe, even dancing the Baby Swan variation in class.
Needless to say, ballet, specifically Swan Lake, holds a special place in my heart.
The final dress rehearsal provided an inside look at how ballet is made, long tables lined with computer screens, towers of technical equipment, at least three video cameras and endless numbers of artistic staff with legal pads, scribbling furiously.
As soon as the mournful oboe signaled the beginning of the prologue, we were witnessing something special. One last chance to work out kinks before an opening night audience, but, from where we sat, there were no kinks at all. Perfection radiated from the movement onstage in their precise, calculated yet deeply emotional steps.
Briefly, the story of Swan Lake is one of magic, deception and tragic romance. An evil sorcerer transforms a princess into a swan by day and tricks a Prince into betraying her with his own daughter, the infamous Black Swan. Nissinen deftly stages each piece of the story, rolling fog spilling over into the orchestra pit while the corps de ballet rises from the mist in a spectacular stage picture, highlighting each tortured swan arm undulation until your heart is breaking for the cursed princess.
Though I was never close to dancing professionally, I am reasonably aware of the athleticism it takes. The training and conditioning along with the intense artistry demanded of one of the top ballet companies in the world is unparalleled. It’s a unique combination of an extreme sport and high classical art.
One of the most well-known sequences, the “Odile coda” near the beginning of Act 2, requires the dancer playing the dual role of Odette the Swan Queen and her evil counterpart, Odile the Black Swan, to perform 32 fouette, or “whipped” turns at a rapid clip and Misa Kuranaga, Boston’s Swan Queen, stunned in this variation. Her fierce flicks and flashes of movement communicated her power over the doomed Prince and her endless series of turns elicited the thunderous applause it deserved.
I felt so fortunate to watch a rehearsal of this scale play out.
The dancers walked through a brief curtain call, but there were no bouquets of roses to present, only the directors and designers hustling to the stage with pages of notes before the orchestra even finished playing.
As I stood from my seat to leave, the orchestra began reviewing certain pieces of the score and the lights started scrolling through cues, flashing colors against the flock of white tulle congregated center stage, putting the minute, final touches on a gem of a piece that was clearly ready for and deserving of an audience.
Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake plays April 29-May 26 at the Boston Opera House: www.bostonballet.org