After seeing the Bolshoi’s disappointing Swan Lake just months ago at the Lincoln Center Festival, I had reservations about revisiting the ballet so soon. But the Mariinsky’s Swan Lake, currently performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is a beauty.

© Jack Vartoogian
© Jack Vartoogian
I personally tend to prefer more modern dance to traditional ballet. However, the Mariinsky's Swan Lake is a production par excellence that renewed my interest in this seminal work as well as more traditional ballet.

While the current choreography is only a simulacrum of Petipa and Ivanov’s 1877 original – revisions were made by Konstantin Sergeyev in 1950, the Mariinsky’s Swan Lake is one of the most if not the most outstanding productions of this piece today. A key factor in how successful staging of a classic, fairy-tale production such as this one is very much depends on how whole-heartedly the company of dancers embraces the choreographic traditions handed down to them. I was terribly afraid the Mariinsky’s Swan Lake would be much like the boorish Bolshoi version – performed almost out of obligation to tradition.

The corps de ballet amazed the audience with their youthful exuberance and exactness. In awe of the Danse des petits cygnes in Act IV, audience members whispered “breathtaking” and “astounding” at the precision of Anastasia Asaben, Anastasia Mikheikina, Anastasia Sogrina and Oxana Marchuk. During the Act III ball, I especially enjoyed the buoyant Anastasia Petushkova, who enlivened what could otherwise be a tired and trite Spanish Dance. Later in the same tableau, it was impossible not to sigh in sympathy with the prospective brides since their looks of dejection were so dear.

The true highlight of the evening, however, was Ulyana Lopatkina in the lead dual role of Odette-Odile, one she has performed now for 20 years.

© Jack Vartoogian
© Jack Vartoogian
Even Mariinsky soloist Viktoria Tereshkina, who performs Odette-Odile for two nights during the current run of Swan Lake at BAM, said in a recent interview, “I’ll admit that no one, anywhere in the world dances the White Swan better than she does”. And in my opinion, her Odile did not provide an incredibly stark contrast to her Odette. Still, Lopatkina was so delicate, so demure, and so earnest, that I doubt I will ever see a better Odette for some time to come.

Though the orchestra brought out the power of Tchaikovsky’s score, it did not, at times, dance delicately enough to match the choreography. For example, the violin solo in the Andante of the Act I pas de deux was touchingly tender in the opening measures, though the same player was a bit screeching and sloppy with some of the runs later in the piece. Though Gergiev is one of the preeminent interpreters of Tchaikovsky, the main of the attraction of the Mariinsky’s Swan Lake is – no doubt – the opportunity to see the almost unparalleled talent of the Ballet.

© Jack Vartoogian
© Jack Vartoogian
Aesthetically, the production is not without its charms, even though the costumes and sets are decades old. In the Mariinsky’s version of the fairy tale, Siegfried and Odette live happily ever after. So, it lacks some of the pathos of other version of the piece, in which their love is ultimately unrequited. Yet, it remains one of the most exceptional productions of Swan Lake today, and is not to be missed during its current run at BAM.