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Review: the Mariinsky Ballet's Swan Lake

A Review: Swan Lake - The Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet under Artistic Director Valery Gergiev
with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony under Pavel Bubeinikov
March 1, 2011
Continues to March 6 - Sony Centre, Toronto

The Mariinsky Ballet and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (their signature work) - what's not to like? This is a lavish, crowd pleasing production with gorgeously detailed costumes, elaborate sets, pretty dancers (oh, so many Swan Maidens!) and gravity defying feats of graceful athleticism - in short, everything you'd expect from this kind of piece.

All the principle roles had their impressive moments, notably crowd favourite Grigory Popov as A Jester in the first half. The piece itself really takes flight in the second half, to my mind, where ballerina Victoria Tereshkina truly sparkled as Odile, the evil Black Swan, matched by handsome young Vladimir Schklyarov as Prince Siegfried, who also came into his own in their pas de deux and solo sequences. The only disappointment in that respect was Konstantin Zverev as Rothbart, the Evil Sorcerer, who seemed like a very intriguing talent in an abbreviated role. I did want to see more of him. (Please note that the cast rotates through the roles over the performances, and you may not see these same dancers.)

The ballet runs about 3 hours with two intermissions (the last act is quite short) and the company has the rather curious habit of taking bows and curtain calls at each intermission as well as at the end, but it was a predilection the large crowd at the Sony Centre seemed happy to oblige, giving them a standing O at the end. (Although it is to be noted, Toronto audiences are notorious for giving everyone a standing O.)

As an special bonus, you won't have to sit next to noted dance critics such as Paula Citron, since I took on that chore for all of us last night. Ms Citron took her seat about 10 minutes before the performance began and promptly announced, "I'm bored already." She then proceeded to direct the woman sitting in front of her to sit to one side so as to provide her with a completely unobstructed view. Now it would seem to me that someone who, for whatever reason - and I'd like to say "for better or worse", but I can't see an upside to the situation at all - has established a ridiculous kind of monopoly on performance arts criticism in this town, might feel a responsibility to be more fairminded, rather than less so, but perhaps I'm being naive.

At any rate, you can attend any of the remaining performances with the assurance they'll be blessedly media-free, and if the grand spectacle that is classical ballet, Russian-style, is your thing, then by all means go, and enjoy. You won't be disappointed.

Swan Lake runs at the Sony Centre For The Performing Arts (1 Front Street East, Toronto) for six remaining performances only
• March 2, 3, 4, 5 at 8 pm, with matinee performances March 5 and 6 at 2 pm.
• Tickets range from $60 to $225
• Available by calling 416-872-2262
• Online at www.sonycentre.ca
• Or in person at the Sony Centre For The Performing Arts Box Office (1 Front Street East, Toronto).

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