Articles from Ballet2000

Preljocaj's new Swans

by Delphine Goater  - This new Swan Lake was created in October 2020 for Ballet Preljocaj at the new “La Comédie” Theatre in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The show had been scheduled for December 2020/January 2021 at the Théâtre de Chaillot, Paris but performances were cancelled. In the coming months it is supposed to return to Paris and be toured France and abroad.
After making Romeo and Juliet in 1997 and Snow White in 2008, this creation marks choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s grand comeback to the story ballet, a genre that always constitutes a big hit, each and every time, for his  Aix-en-Provence-based company. Angelin Preljocaj’s Swan Lake is also his first attempt at a contemporary re-reading of a “corps de ballet” ballet, in this case the late-Romantic era’s ‘ballet blanc’ par excellence. Using Tchaikovsky’s music, the choreographer respects the plot and structure of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s ballet, alternating narrative acts with introspective ones. He has, however, chosen to move the action to an urban skyscraper setting; the minimalist sets make use of video projections and plunge us into a business district where young bankers and flashy entrepreneurial women make their living.

At times, Preljocaj purposely cites the 1980s and the golden boys as portrayed in Hollywood movies, starting from Siegfried, a young yuppie facilitated by his father who becomes a multibillionaire, and Rothbart who exploits the father’s ambitions and misleads the son by substituting Odette with Odile in the ball scene. Thus, as from act one, we find all the elements of the libretto with which we are acquainted and Preljocaj creates a truly dark legend in this contemporary version of his. 

As is always the case, Angelin Preljocaj’s choreography is finely wrought and shows precision. He has created lovely duets for Odette and Siegfried, even though on opening night the two young dancers, Théa Martin and Laurent Le Gall, did not yet show total self-assurance. The corps de ballet really does shine, both in the “black” act, especially the ball scene with its divertissement, and in the white acts where, using the art of geometrics in which he is well-versed as well as an extremely reduced number of dancers, the choreographer manages to create the illusion of a lake covered in swans. The mirror-like structure of the original choreography has been preserved, especially in the rows of swans, while other new arrangements have turned out to be successful, such as when the swans form a sort of bouquet or move in twos facing one another.

The pace of the ballet, which last two hours without an interval or any boring moments, strings mime or action scenes together with highly choreographed moments which, in some cases, are extremely imaginative. Without giving up  the stage clout for which he is renowned, Preljocaj makes way for magic, or rather for fairytale enchantment as well as for a certain melancholy in his portrayal of Siegfried. Its intensity grows as the ballet progresses and climaxes in a firework display of creativity, also thanks to the dancers (who took part in elaborating elements of the choreography). 

Delphine Goater