Love Affair in Hybernia Theatre: “Swan Lake”

07/06/2012 Late-night, after “Swan Lake” with the Prague State Opera & Ballet Company, Prague, Czech Republic.

Principal dancers who play Prince Siegfried and Odette in the performance. (I know, right? We landed some fairly awesome seats!)

Because it would be wrong to keep nice things to myself, I am going to share some stolen moments from last night’s “Swan Lake” ballet with you.

I have not seen a ballet since…ever.. meaning my poor, beauty-deprived brain was lifted out of its shell and scorched with a whole new appreciation of grace. From start to finish, the principal dancer, a ballerina from the Prague State Opera & Ballet Company, who danced Odette ravished my heart- duets of love with her prince, victimization, betrayal revealed, and then, sigh, heartbreak.

I wish I could imitate the way she unfurls her arms, pointing her outstretched limbs, muscled yet seemingly effortless control spread to the very ends of her fingertips; the expressive arch of her neck; his grand jeté across the stage; slipper-laced feet gliding across the floor on pointe. Body language truly speaks for itself. By the time the velvet curtains dropped, it took me less than a couple seconds to establish that tonight I had fallen in love, deeper in love than Prince Siegfried with Odette, with neoclassical ballet.

The principal ballerina redefined grace.
It’s amazing how clearly those small gestures and turns communicated to me.

The version we watched tonight captures the ballet’s most well-known scenes in an abridged version of the original. A little bit of background info about “Swan Lake”: the plot itself was actually fashioned from Russian folk tales, and the strongest theory for the ballet’s first director of composition points to Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres in the 1870s. The first ever production in 1877, Moscow, was received poorly.  The first choreographer assigned to the dance was in fact a Czech named Julius Reisinger and, last of all, Tchaikovsky, the composer most widely associated with the ballet, did not exercise his musical influence on the piece until closer to the turn of the 19th century.

I wish I were better acquainted with the world of dance (no need to bring up memories of ballet lessons as a 6 year old, way back when) but tonight’s show has no doubt sparked up my interest to see more into the world of dance. Interesting fact: apparently my secondhand bed used to belong to a current dancer in the Mark Morris Dance Group of New York.

Besides that auspicious sign, I have already bought my tickets to see “Swan Lake” again next week! Sadly, not in the cozy seats of the Hybernia Theatre again in Prague but at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. OK, guess who will be performing? It can’t be true, but it is: the Mariinsky Ballet! Why am I stoked as a panting dog? Because THIS dance company, founded circa 1740 in St. Petersburg, Russia, is one of the leading dance companies in the world- and to think it will be performing the classic of all classics!

I know this ballet post has been a bit of a diversion from our itinerary but never fear, tomorrow morning we shall visit the Communism Museum and breathe in the last parcels of Prague before boarding an afternoon train back to Deutschland.

Thank you for an enthralling experience, Prague State Opera! All the best! Mariinsky Ballet: see you in October.

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