Carolina Ballet's swans are lovely

Season opener features 3 works

CorrespondentSeptember 17, 2011 

  • What: "Black and White Swan," presented by the Carolina Ballet

    Where: Fletcher Opera Theater, Progress Energy Center, Raleigh

    When: 8 p.m. tonight, Sept. 24 and Oct. 1; 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 1-2

    Cost: $25-$65

    Contact: 719-0900; carolinaballet .com

Carolina Ballet artistic director Robert Weiss did not like the film "Black Swan" for its obsessive, fragmented depiction of "Swan Lake." He's featuring some original choreography from the Tchaikovsky work on his season opener, "Black and White Swan" hoping to entice the film's fans to explore ballet further. With two stunning additional works on the program, there should be converts.

Two "Swan Lake" pas de deux begin the program, the first for Prince Siegfried and his newfound love Odette, a white swan who takes human form at night. Lev Ivanov's 1895 choreography is exacting in its delicacy, and Thursday's pair, Margaret Severin-Hansen and Gabor Kapin, proved up to the task. Out of context without nighttime décor, however, the piece lacked some of its usual hushed shimmer.

The second pits Siegfried against the evil Odile, who lures him away, requiring speed and precision in Marius Petipa's 1895 version. Lilyan Vigo and Marcelo Martinez had the style and characterizations down, but had some trouble with balance and exact execution.

For all the hype of the program's title, more might have been done to connect these short pieces to the rest of the program. Nevertheless, combined with what comes after, the most inexperienced balletgoers should be wowed.

George Balanchine's status as the 20th century's greatest choreographer is confirmed in his 1929 "Prodigal Son," set to music by Prokofiev.

A complete contrast to "Swan Lake," this version of the biblical parable is all angular athleticism and stark intensity.

Kapin's unflagging energy as the son and Lara O'Brien's cool sensuality as the siren who seduces him constantly dazzled with their strangely intriguing positions and combinations. Aided by boisterous displays from Sokvannara Sar and Nicholai Smirnov as the son's friends, this 35-minute piece still seems fresh after 82 years.

"Time Gallery," to music by Paul Moravec, is one of Weiss' most satisfying creations, full of original ideas and vivid images. In its 45 minutes, this 2008 work offers stage-filling patterns and striking pas de deux, invoking various impressions of time: monastic devotionals, clock mechanisms, the pulse's rhythms and memory's distortions. Under Ross Kolman's gorgeous lighting, 18 dancers swirl, spin and skitter about, often linking up dramatically, including the breath-taking final moments.

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