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With Seán Martinfield

Seán Martinfield

SWAN LAKE, The San Francisco Ballet

By Seán Martinfield

February 9, 2006

I have to admit – I am a die-hard fan of Tchaikovsky and particularly of SWAN LAKE. Under the knowing eyes of choreographer Helgi Tomasson, four sets of principals were signed for nine presentations. Given the company's world class status and the international origins of its 73 listed members, the variation on the experience depends upon the day you attend. Mine was at the seventh in the series and the second showing for Lorena Feijoo, Davit Karapetyan, and Moises Martin. Presumably, my team has read everyone's review and knows what to do.

When it comes to SWAN LAKE, the first thing I check for are the number of Intermissions – two (it's going to be a long afternoon), and what the synopsis indicates about the Finale. This revival of the 1988 production has the lovers drown themselves down by the river while the bad guy dies of evilness. Oh, THAT ending. Yike.

From the first downbeat, conductor Martin West lured us back to the shadows of 19th Century Russia. Such familiar and haunting strains, but all at once fresh, unnerving, and anxious to unfold. West is the ballet dancer's dream – he is with the performer at every turn, through every pause, extension and landing. He supports the objectives of each character and fulfills the device of every scene. Whenever "motivation for being in the room" might register as somewhat vague or the fanciful plot a trifle rippled, West and his orchestra makes consistently clear and plausible. Transported in time – we might have seen the Maestro, along with the solo violinist and cellist, summoned to the Royal Box.

No matter its convoluted legends, historical interpretations or even musical insertions (this revival appropriates the composer's "Serenade Melancolique, Opus 26" for the Pas de Deux of Act III, Scene II) SWAN LAKE remains the quintessential ballet because it includes every hallmark of classical dance. Moreover, this glamorous vehicle has elbow room for everybody. Its built-in accessories accommodate an entire company, always offering a clear view to the dancer who looks down the road. From Little Swanettes and Boy Cavaliers dashing past swarms of ever-fertile and bounding ingénues to the maturing Queen Mother and wizened Tutor – everyone on the totem gets their moment. Under the flattering light of designer David K. H. Elliott one can see the Apprentice and Soloist who demonstrates (that day, anyway) they have what it takes to deliver under pressure and may on some future season's roster be registered as Principal Dancer. I believe that young and charming Hansuke Yamamoto will be one of them. In the First Act Pas de Trois, the delirious height of his turns and even-tempered follow-throughs caused a noticeable gasp throughout the house and roused the first wave of well-deserved applause.

Though it took a while to figure out, Davit Karapetyan (our "Prince Siegfried") proved himself the Ideal Man in this flood of femininity dominating SWAN LAKE. Not the most effective actor in town, Karapetyan is a commanding figure in the air. He is the best friend a Prima Ballerina such as Lorena Feijoo could have – he doesn't get in the way. "Siegfried" is bored, bothered, bewildered and every eligible Princess knows it. The royal jewels look great, but – remember the ending? – this branch of the Family Tree is going nowhere but down. All we need is an amazing guy who knows his athletic bits are coming up and his duty is to support the fiercely focused and flawless Feijoo. She is a spit-fire, calibrated to perfection, driving the "Odette-Odile" roles to an absolute pinnacle. Out in the house, a particular bevy of swains – no doubt dazzled by the brilliance of her 32 fouettés – led the screams during our standing ovation. Somebody alert the office – they're gonna be flying in for Feijoo.

Keep your eyes all over newly-signed soloist, Moises Martin, the erotic "Von Rothbart", for the rest of the season.

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