Delhi weekend: You woudn’t want to miss the Russian ballet, Swan Lake
The iconic 19th century Russian ballet Swan Lake will be staged for the first time in its entirety in India this weekend. It will be danced to recorded music, not to music by a live orchestra. While Delhi is no stranger to performances by international artistes, notably Giselle and ballet galas by the Kirov and Bolshoi from Russia or dances by the Alwin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Murray Lewis and Martha Graham companies of the USA in the past, this production could be special as Delhi’s first chance to see the entire ballet in four acts.
This collaboration with the Royal Russian Ballet company is set up by engineer-entrepreneur-impresario Dinesh Singh of the culture consortium ‘Navarasa Duende’ (‘duende’ being a Spanish, flamenco-related term for ‘passion’ and ‘emotion’).
Says Anatoliy Kazatskiy, the director of the production, “The Royal Russian Ballet theatre was founded in 2008 in Ukraine to save and promote the best traditions of Russian classical ballet. The ballet troupe includes 55 top ballet dancers from Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere. They are graduates of famous ballet schools. Classical ballet is the main priority of our theatre, staging the most famous classical performances of world heritage such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote, Giselle and gala events”.
He sees himself in the continuum of Russian dance tradition; that “since the late 18th century or beginning of the 19th century onwards there was a culture of ballet in Russian provinces and like others, I was also inspired to be a ballet dancer”. He worked his way up from junior dance school to dancing professionally, and emphatically thanks his gurus: “An invaluable role in my creative development as an artiste was played by great ballet masters – Aleksander Kuzmin, Viacheslav Mednikov, Mikhail Bezubikov, Irina Surneva, Nina Silvestrova, Valentina Markova, Svetlana Kolyvanova and Theodor Popescu”.
Kazaktskiy says that the first ballet he probably saw was The Nutcracker Suite, a toy story that’s an enduring favourite with children in the West. Swan Lake is a love story of unclear origin, said by some to be based on an old Germanic fairytale.
Its heroine Odette is a beautiful maiden cursed for unknown reasons by the magician Von Rothbart to become a swan by day. She can regain her human form only at night. She stays with a group of similarly afflicted ‘swan maidens’. Siegfried, a local prince, sees her while out hunting. They fall in love. Siegfried wants to marry her and invites her to his ‘swayamvar’ ball at his castle, at which his mother wants him to choose a bride from the young ladies invited to it. But Von Rothbart intervenes and substitutes his daughter Odile, whom Siegfried mistakes for Odette.
Will this cruel deception lead to tragedy or will Odette and Siegfried manage to elude the sorcerer’s schemes and live happily after? Swan Lake can conclude either way and Kazatskiy says, “The end is suspense, wait and see.”Meanwhile, there’s a picturesque cue to how we could imagine ‘Swan Lake country’ from the late, great British ballerina Margot Fonteyn who danced the double role of Odette-Odile for over 50 years.
She wrote of “an enchanting boat trip along the Rhine from Mainz to Coblenz, seeing the Lorelei rock and those unbelievable turreted castles perched precariously on mountain tops which anticipated my long life in the shadow of Prince Siegfried’s castle in Swan Lake.”
Exalted through the 20th century and today, Swan Lake was a flop show when first presented by the music composer Piotr Illyich Tchaikovsky in 1875. It muddled along for several years and took a flying leap to fame in the 1890s after Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani, a guest artiste of the Russian ballet, did a spectacular 32 fouettés, non-stop whip-ups with one leg while turning fast on tiptoe on the other leg. This technical feat became a signature step of Swan Lake.
We in Delhi may justifiably have high expectations of the Royal Russian Ballet’s beautiful prima ballerina, Natalia Matsak, who is the Principal Dancer of the National Opera House of Ukraine and an Honoured Artiste of her country.
Incidentally, Matsak shares a birthday (17 March) with Rudolf Nureyev, the long-ago supernova of the ballet firmament, and one of her first roles was in the classic ballet Bayaderka (The Temple Dancer), which is set in the India of the 19th century European imagination. In a charming suite of ‘national dances’ to traditionally anticipate at Siegfried’s ball are the Czardas, the Spanish and the Mazurka.
In particular, the Russian style of dancing is renowned for its strong yet lyrical quality and Kazatskiy says, “The ‘Russian back’ is a beautiful and graceful part of ballet and we will try and cover all these important aspects”.
WHAT: Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
WHEN: 22 Sep, 07:00 PM,
23 Sep, 02:30 PM, 07:00 PM,
24 Sep, 02:30 PM, 07:00 PM
WHERE: Sirifort auditorium.
TICKETS: Rs 1770- 7080