By Nancy Condit
Oklahoma City Ballet took on the grand undertaking of presenting the evening long Romantic ballet Swan Lake Friday night and Saturday night at the Civic Center, and did a very credible performance. The company dancers, led by Miki Kawamura as Odette/Odile and Yui Sato as Prince Siegfried, continue to dance well. The staging, after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, was by artistic director Robert Mills and ballet master Jacob Sparso in the palace scenes, full of entertaining national dances as well the story of the ballet, with the "white acts" with the swans staged by guest repetiteur Lisa Moon, following Lev Ivanov. Kudos to Mills for choosing Moon, who has a background in classical ballet performance, choreography, and currently choreographs for Idaho Regional Ballet.
Friday evening there were glimpses of emotion in the second act dance between the Prince, Yui Sato, and the Swan Queen Odette, Miki Kawamura. Saturday evening's guests Nao Kusuzaki as Odette/Odile and Christopher Coomer as Prince Siegfried, courtesy of the Houston Ballet, performed their partnerships with additional lightness and delicacy.
The company dancers, who performed well Friday night, were much improved Saturday in Act I, with the men uniformly performing as well as the women. Among the standouts were Ellany Abbott on both evenings, and Jerry Pines on Friday and Alvin Tovstogray on Saturday. The Pas de Trois was light and elegant as danced on Friday by DaYoung Jung, Callye McCollum and Alvin Tovstogray, and on Saturday by DaYoung Jung, Miki Kawamura and Yui Sato. The company as a whole was much stronger Saturday night in Act I as they celebrated the Prince's coming of age, whether this was because of some small cast changes, opening night jitters, or both. In Act IV, where there were no cast changes except for the principles, the swans were much more uniform and comfortable in their roles.
The music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was well played by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, led by Joel Levine. While the music by itself sounds pompous in places to this reviewer, it fit the ballet well, as Tchaikovsky intended that it should.
Kudos to Mills for choosing Moon as guest repetiteur, in those particularly moving scenes. The choreography as Odile, the Black Swan as she deceives the Prince during the palace ball is very good, as is the choreography of Rothbart, performed by David Barocio.
Miki Kawamura's portrayal of Odette/Odile (Rothbart's daughter) was very nice in Act II, as she first
portrayed Odette running and flying in circles around Siegfried, then, in love with him, resting against Siegfried, and, as Odile, blowing hot and cold on the Prince to deceive him into believing that she was his true love. Kawamura performed the famous fouettes en tournant, 24 of them, standing on one leg and whipping the other leg around so that she could turn on point, to further entice and dominate him. In Act II's love scene, Kawamura danced extremely well, although her left arm was appeared stiff in close partnership with Sato.
Yui Sato's lifts were strong and sturdy, making him a very good partner as well as a good soloist. He knew how to make the most of his long lines as a supplicant lover, balanced on one bended leg, the other extended straight behind him.
The main differences between Kawamura and Sato, and Saturday's guest artists Nao Kusuzaki and Christopher Coomer may be differences of experience.
Kusuzaki and Coomer danced the third act pas de deux with open rounded arms, hands barely meeting, like a Dresden figurine. Coomer hardly seemed to touch Kusuzaki when he lifted her.
As Mills pointed out in an email, "The choreography was different from one night to the next, yes. The Ivanov choreography is 118 years old. Many 'liberties' are taken with the choreography in that many different standard 'versions' exist. The version chosen by the couple depends on their unique talents and abilities they posess and what suits their bodies."
While Kusuzaki as Odile snapped off 35 fouettes en tournant, Kawamura had a sly, cat-like look of pure enjoyment playing with the Prince as she maliciously entranced him away from his true love.
David Barocio's handling of Rothbart's long wings of an owl was very good. His overall performance was most enjoyable when he danced, fighting with the Prince for Odette.
Io Morita was excellent as the Jester, using teriffic energy in easy, leaps, and giving the impression of turning himself into a ball as he danced through the Prince's coming of age party and palace ball, always in control. Jerry Pines' leaps and presence were notable, as was Alvin Tostogray. Ellany Abbott was a good addition to the Waltz Soloists. DaYoung Jung, Callye McCollum and Alvin Tovstogray performed a pleasant and delicate Pas de Trois.
At the end of the ballet by the lake, the final impossibility of the Prince's and Odette's love becomes
apparent as the Prince battles the evil sorcerer Rothbart and loses. Friday night, during this scene, the tragedy of the ballet came through until the lovers drowned themselves. Whether the music did not allow for the playing out of the tragedy by Rothbart's being overcome by the swans, and the lovers going off to an afterlife - the ballet ended too quickly and the emotional moment was lost. However, this appears to have been a matter of timing, since Saturday evening's performance had time for the despair and hope offered at the performance's end.
The full traditional sets and costumes were courtesy of the Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene, Oregan. Scenic design was by Peter Dean Beck, costume design by Lynn Bowers, additional costume design by Amy Panganiban and Michael Jones, with lighting design by Richard Weil.
At the beginning of the evening the new executive director, Shane Jewell, was introduced to the audience.
At the evening's end, Mills announced that Miki Kawamura and Yui Sato were being promoted to principal dancers.
Swan Lake continues Sunday at 2 pm in the Civic Center.