Review | Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Swan Lake’
UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures’ Presentation of Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Swan Lake’ Soars Audiences to a Happy Place
The juxtaposition of one of the world’s most beloved classic ballets with environmental themes, modern movement, and electronic music made for an exciting, unpredictable, and all-around top-notch production of Ballet Preljocaj’s Swan Lake last weekend at the Granada.
The tune from Chorus Line danced in my head as the curtain rose and the performance began with a single swan dancer absorbed by the sights of mesmerizingly strange and ethereal images projected onto a translucent screen.
Everything really is beautiful at the ballet.
A sexier and more sensual version of the swan story, this somewhat apocryphal interpretation from Angelin Preljocaj sounds an in-your-face warning about corporate greed, the environmental battle, and potential planetary doom with a fabulous mix of grace, elegance, and swagger.
Though sometimes jarring, it’s all stunning. I can appreciate the contemporary additions, which make this piece a different Swan Lake in a darkly entertaining and very dangerous world. Trees and nature are destroyed and industrial high rises are built high in the sky via clever video projections designed by Boris Labbé, giving the classic storyline a very modern twist. The party scenes, in particular, convey an end-of-the-world decadence that’s hard to resist. The dancers are, without a doubt, exceptional, whether in black and colorful modern form or the more classic white swans in tempo and guise.
But still, there’s something about the ethereal elegance of the traditional ballet that makes those moments stand out above the rest — even without pointe shoes.
And sense memory takes over every single time I hear Tchaikovsky’s immediately recognizable Swan Lake “Swan Theme” play (through many reprises). I’m 10 years old again, at the ballet with my grandma and sister, wearing a stiff party dress with my black patent-leather shoes and white ankle socks, completely mesmerized by the beautiful swan dancers in their white tutus — still feeling like I can fly too!
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