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Los Angeles Ballet opening weekend of ‘Swan Lake’

March 5, 2012

Bird-watchers flocked to UCLA’s Royce Hall over the weekend as Los Angeles Ballet, now in its sixth season, continued to prove its pointe shoe prowess with the premiere of “Swan Lake.” And while everything was not always picture-perfect Saturday, husband-and-wife directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, who choreographed the four-act work after Petipa and Ivanov, continue to confound balletic naysayers with their little company that could.

A classic bipolar drama of joy and tragedy set to Tchaikovsky’s sweeping score (heard here, alas, on tape), “Swan Lake” lives and dies -– literally –- by its Odette/Odile, the sweetly vulnerable white swan/cunningly malevolent black swan. (Additional performances with cast changes are on tap in four other venues).

A sturdy, stylish corps is also a must. And though Allynne Noelle’s Odette captivated with fragile, fluttering arms and superb footwork (Allyssa Bross alternates in the role), the dancer’s Odile was more smiles than seduction, her Act III fouettés less a study in surety than traveling –- or was it fatigue? One hopes, over time, that Noelle will come to fully embody both avians.

The well-drilled corps, though lovely in held poses, is short on emotionally expressive steps, a cygnet requirement for representing unadulterated femininity. In the challenging pas de quatre (Bianca Bulle, Julia Cinquemani, Ariel Derby and Sophie Silna), technique again trumped finesse, another sign of LAB’s youthful makeup. As every Swan Queen needs a noble Siegfried, Kenta Shimizu was not only a gallant partner but also a thrilling soloist. His Act III variations shimmered with airy-as-meringue leaps, his landings rock solid. Also notable: Guest artist Akimitsu Yahata’s Jester generated heat with splashy split kicks, Christopher Revels’ Benno made easy work of his jetés and Christopher McDaniel’s Neapolitan dance (with Isabel Vondermuhll) was sassy and precise.

A requisitely nasty Von Rothbart, Nicolas de la Vega as the bare-chested, cape-swooshing sorcerer, boosted the drama, especially in his final death throes. Kudos, also, to Oregon Ballet Theatre’s scenery and costumes: Neo-opulent castle and moonlit forest backdrops accentuated plush royal garb and crisp, sparkly tutus. While this “Swan Lake” may feature a bit of fowl play, its heart is in the right place. Long may Los Angeles Ballet spread its wings.

-- Victoria Looseleaf

Los Angeles Ballet’s “Swan Lake,” Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach. 7:30 p.m. March 10; Also: Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. 7:30 p.m. March 17; Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach. 7:30 p.m., March 24; Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. 7:30 p.m., March 31. $24-$95. (310) 998-7782.

Los Angeles Times

by Victoria Looseleaf

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