Big pond, little pond

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  May 7, 2008

The princess brides are another intriguing idea that doesn’t quite come off. There are just three: one Hungarian, one Spanish, and one Italian; they enter with their delegations, and each one has a solo. All three wear the same white dress that starts to blush toward the hem; you don’t notice the slight variations till it’s too late to determine who’s who — though csárdás moves eventually identify the Hungarian Princess. The trio do have a melancholy pouty-faced moment at the end of the third act when Siegfried chooses Odile: there’s lots of head shaking and shoulder slumping and commiserating. Djuric’s version, like Boston Ballet’s under Bruce Marks, has a Jester, to supply high-flying acrobatics and interact with Siegfried and his Tutor and the two girls from the pas de trois.

Other notions work less well. Djuric filled the VMA stage with a minimal number of dancers: six couples in the waltz, eight in the polonaise (with the jester and the tutor clinking cups), 16 swans in the “white’ second act. But having the swan corps swirl about Rothbart at the beginning of that act deprives Odette of her iconic entrance, and the swans of theirs, when they snake on in alternating prancing pas emboîté and hopping sautés in arabesque. (Here half of the pas emboîté sequences were replaced by walking steps, one of a number of simplifications in the choreography.) Where you did want to see the swans, lined up at the sides of the stage to flank the cygnets and the two big swans and Odette’s variation, they were absent, as if the corps couldn’t hold battement tendu derrière. The mazurka disappeared from the third act, and Odile’s variation brought music I’ve never heard and steps I’ve never seen, as if Putrius couldn’t or didn’t want to do the traditional ones. The last act lasted barely 15 minutes, with virtually no dancing for Siegfried and Odette together.

That variation aside, Putrius was more commanding as Odile, flashing big sexy smiles at both her Siegfried and her Rothbart but not impeccable footwork: balances were shaky, coordination with the (canned) music was problematic, and her fouettés looked to be a struggle, even though she got through them. Her Odette was so recessed, she might have been sleepwalking; there was some restriction in her developpés à la seconde, some wobbling in her flat-footed arabesque, and she didn’t seem comfortable partnering Alexander Akulov. It’s too bad: here and there a less inhibited Odette/Odile peeped out. Akulov looks the part of Siegfried, and he had a good first act, flirting with the village girls, blushing confusion when his mother told him it’s time to marry, tossing off big sissonnes and slow tours jetés in the meditative finale. Thereafter his manner outstripped his technique.

Eivar Martinez was a short, powerful Rothbart who looked happier lifting Putrius than Akulov did, but the floppy wings of his owl costume seemed designed to obfuscate less-than-pristine doubles tours. Ilya Burov’s Jester was standard issue: good jumps, excellent tour à la seconde sequence, restrained in his comic gamboling. Former Boston Ballet corps member Gianni Di Marco supplied the comedy as a sleepy Tutor; best of the smaller roles was a delicate Lauren Kennedy as the Spanish Princess. The corps looked bad in the waltz, where the ensemble in the lifts was embarrassing; after that it firmed up. The worst aspect of the production was the music: the recorded performance wasn’t terrible, but it was piped in at ear-splitting volume.

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