I grew up reading Hans Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm. I continually enjoy Disney films, both new and old, reveling in the animated stories that never cease winning over the hearts and minds of a span of ages. The Syracuse City Ballet really did a number with its production of Swan Lake.
At the beginning of the three-hour-long performance, Executive Director Kathleen Rathbun asked the attendees on the Friday, May 15, opening night — by a round of applause — who’ve been and never been to the ballet before. She also asked people to admit if we, the audience, have or have not seen Swan Lake before. It was my first time for both.
I didn’t mind admitting and owning up to my being new to the ballet scene. I new the story of the performance, but I never really understood exactly what was to take place. There is plenty of dancing, for one and the most obvious.
As for the storytelling … How?
When it comes to entertainment, I’m a bit particular and picky and borderline snobbish. When I watch a movie, there is hope for the production to lean toward film rather than blockbuster. My preference sways to heartfelt and tangible, humorous without even having to try, and have those dramatic and realistic elements to pull on those heartstrings. I’d like to feel something. I want to empathize and sympathize, and I want to relate even the slightest to something unfamiliar.
Before the production even began and before Rathbun welcomed everyone, that red curtain draped gracefully.
It was nearly a full house. It was difficult to see what the main floor looked like, but the mezzanine was packed. I sent a text (during the first intermission) to Stephanie Dattellas, friend and Ballet Mistress, asking where she was, if she was down below or what I referred to as the “poor writer” section. She and the rest of the Syracuse Ballet staff and families were on the mezzanine as well. The seats were the way to go, she said, “You can see everything.”
She makes a very valid point. All the action, the foot work and the leaps and bounds were clear. I was exhausted for them by the end of the show. These performers worked their tails off. Abigail Morwood, who plays both the white and black swans, Odette and Odile, gave a whimsical performance. Central New York natives, Peter Kurta and Jake Casey returned home to play valiant roles.
Brandon Ellis who played Von Rathbart, the antagonist of the story, how he moved with that cape around him the entire time is a task in itself.
I was able to wear the cape during one the rehearsals. It’s much heavier that it looks. How he brought forth Odile, the Black Swan, was very tactful. Instead of taking the route of the doppelganger being his daughter, the duplicitous character was a conjured up entity.
The work of the staff, the training and efforts of the dancers, the intricate work of the costume designs all paid off.
Speaking of “costumes”: It was pleasing to see that the attendees actually dressed up and did not opt for the jeans and T-shirt approach. Sure, some people wore jeans, but the women wore dresses and the majority of the gents wore slacks and blazers. Some guys wore more formal attire — tuxes and black ties.
The students next to me, however, enjoyed their shorts and weekend “mall wear.” True, I can’t really blame them, but their desire to pay attention to their phones became quite aggravating. The blaring LCD screen’s light took away from the lighting on stage.
Bob Dwyer did an amazing job with the lighting. (I would have taken pictures, but my phone was secured in my coat pocket.) It’s definitely proof that every little aspect can affect the outcome of a performance. Between the day, night, and indoor scenes were lit appropriately and believably. There is definitive method to it, as the hues and colors affects the scenes themselves and the audience’s perceptions.
While talking to Rathbun, I was able to get a little insight as to her thought process, including the ending. She didn’t tell me the end of the story that she decided to use, as there are many endings. She told me to wait and see. As it was one of the tragic endings, I’m still not going to give away which specific ending.
Why? To emphasize that those who didn’t attend truly missed out. Don’t look at me for spoilers. I will reassure you that it’s a charismatic love story.
I say again: The Syracuse City Ballet fills that artistic niche. Just because you missed the two-day, three-performance window to see Swan Lake, the company will have performances this summer and winter, so it’s best to keep eyes and ears ready for the information.