'Swan Lake' pirouettes into hearts with a twist ending

By Tatiana Craine

Last Thursday, the University of Minnesota hosted the Voronezh State Ballet Theatre of Russia at Northrop Auditorium for an astounding performance of “Swan Lake.” The one-night-only performance brought all the magic, wonder and romance of the classic story ballet to life. One of the most recognizable and well-known ballets in the world, “Swan Lake” follows the traditional narrative ballet format with several acts that follow the main characters of the ballet through their journey on stage. Other forms of ballet features dancers without plot-essentially a series of short dances strung together by themes or music. Other narrative ballets include “The Nutcracker” and “The Sleeping Beauty,” both of which were composed by the esteemed Russian composer Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky. In most cases, these ballets feature intricate and ornate collections of costumes, sets and music to set the tone for the fairy tale on stage.

“Swan Lake” chronicles the tragic love story of Odette and Prince Siegfried. Odette, cursed by the sorceror von Rothbart into being a swan during the day and a woman at night, falls in love with Siegfried after he spots her in the wood while hunting. The spell can only be broken by true and faithful love, the two vow to be together forever. However, when von Rothbart tricks Siegfried into declaring his love for Odile, the lovers are cornered into being able to each other only in the afterlife.

True to form, the Voronezh State Ballet brought the best in narrative ballet to Northrop with a troupe of highly skilled dancers. The performance featured Anastasiya Rusinova as Odette/Odile and Ivan Alexeev as Siegfried-the romantically unlucky lovers. Like most story ballets, the drama unfurled wordlessly through a series of miniature vignettes in which different dancers were featured front and center.

Rusinova delivered a delicate and calculated performance as Odette, the White Swan Queen. Traditionally a very reserved and shy character, Rusinova’s Odette managed to be both cautious and flirtatious in the most avian of ways. Her portrayal of Odile, the Black Swan and the evil von Rothbart’s daughter, truly showed off her dancing prowess. As the sensual and bold Odile, she explored her skills through a series of features during Prince’s ball. The most stunning of her talent came when she pirouetted over a dozen times in a row without skipping a beat.

Everything about the performance was right en pointe; however, there were a few audience members surprised by the happy ending. “Swan Lake” typically ends with the lovers killing themselves to be together, but this version showed Siegfried fatally tearing off von Rothbart’s arm. While it made for a happily-ever-after end, some of the magnanimity of Siegfried’s initial mistake got lost.

“Swan Lake” has been around for more than a century, but has enjoyed a resurgence of attention with the recent film “Black Swan,” a prominent role in the film and stage musical “Billy Elliot” and an inventive reimagining by famed choreographer Matthew Bourne. The Voronezh State Ballet’s performance truly showed the reason behind all the latest swan-centric hype in the best way possible.