The Cuban National Museum of Dance displays throughout the month of February the original printed program of the premiere of the most important version of Swan Lake, a work which success extends to the movies.
The first presentation of the ballet in 1877, at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, received boos, due to the bad choreography by Julius Reisinger, but the piece did not die with the passage of time thanks to the initiative of two great artists: Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. They both belonged to the Mariinsky Theatre, in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, and decide to rescue the work in 1895 in tribute to the composer of the score, Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky. The resulting piece was so successful that it became the starting point for all subsequent versions. Had it not been for that effort, the world today would not know the most requested ballet in the five continents.
Cuba made available to the public from February 2 at the Museum located at the corner of Linea and G SAtreets, at Vedado neighborhood, a sample of the program of that essential version, plus a portrait of Tchaikovsky at the time and the autograph of the original manuscript of the composer who died before seeing the success of the production.
Although the musician never reached perceiving the values of his score, he rather undervalued it, his artistic genius and an attractive drama represented by two very seductive characters: the White Swan, innocent, fragile, with a pure soul and the Black Swan, wicked, seductive and aggressive can be sensed on it.
In the late nineteenth century, Petipa, and his closest apprentice Ivanov, gave prominence to that plot of impossible love and struggle between opposites when reorganizing the failed initial structure and weaving a choreography with steps of aesthetic beauty and, above all, complexity for the time. The main interpreter, Pierina Legnani, made history as the first ballerina to get the feat of executing 32 fouettés, sort of turns made on one leg’s toe tips while the other one is extended and then whipped around to the side.
Legend has it that the Italian ballerina put a ruble (Russian currency) on the floor, marked the circumference with a chalk and in that small space she made the fouettés, without moving from the circle drawn on the floor. This moment of the coda is one of the most anticipated by viewers around the world, particularly by fans of acrobatic skill; some even keep count of the double, triple and quintuple turns, call for spectacular closures and condemn any artist who does not meet expectations.
In the second half of the twentieth century, Alicia Alonso built her own version from that of Petipa and Ivanov, with superior technical demand, in correspondence with the virtuosity that she could and liked exhibit. Over the years, the Cuban prima ballerina assoluta also added retouching; for example she decided to slow down the music during the adage of the second act, climax of Odette, the White Swan.
” This way Tchaikovsky’s music can be expressed more fully, and give the choreography a deeper and pathetic sense,” said the first artist to dance this piece in a concert program, something that still has many followers, even with the slow tempo.
Odile , the black swan, was always more popular and prone to include her pas de deux in galas, as part of virtuosity and seduction. According to Alicia, since starting the dramaturgical work with that character, she focused on the typical love triangle but moved to an era, a style and an unreal situation corresponding to a classic of the nineteenth century. “Odette, Odile and Siegfried star in a drama that not by fantastic stop having to do with the reality of all ages. In short, both Odette and Odile symbolize a type of female personality, and with that criterion I developed the characters, contrasting and opposing each other, “she said.
According Alonso, Odile tries to trick Siegfried and bases her seduction on the outside resemblance to Odette; therefore, she choreography followed some drawings of the white swan, as an element of confusion and deception to achieve the prince’s betrayal. However, Odile always is shown as a stronger and more possessive woman, also imbued with a strong sensuality, without being a femme fatale to the Hollywood way.
To Alicia, the Black Swan has a large dose of mystery and stately elegance, although it is primarily an evil character, and technical virtuosity is part of seduction. “We must take into account a fundamental truth: the dancer can create an atmosphere through technique,” she said.
About this pas de deux, the artist stated: “Technically, I accentuated the balances and multiple turns. Also, I gave the coda the now famous sautés sur le pointe in arabesque penché sequence, made while moving backwards. Many balletomanes shall know what I mean , because they became over time into something highly anticipated by the public. “And indeed, the Cuban auditorium was bad-mannered up to intolerance, by assuming the called “cows” as an irreplaceable sequence and evidence of technical mastery.
The Black Swan proved its attractiveness few years ago in Hollywood when Darren Aronofsky manipulated part of its personality in an eponymous 2010 film that speaks of the alleged harmful effects of the practice of ballet for human mental health, but far from reaping the rejection, it fueled fanaticism for the work. The protagonist Natalie Portman won the Golden Globe, the coveted Oscar Award for Best Actress and a string of laurels.
The same year of the premiere of the film almost all classic companies in the world scheduled Swan Lake, with great sales results, while at the cinema, a more “pink” version of Barbie on the classic softened the look . The expansive force of Hollywood products is considerable, but Cubans appreciated since 1980 the Japanese film in the popular anime style that introduced us to Odette, Odile, Siegfried and the sorcerer Rombarth into a coherent dreamy atmosphere , mystery, pain, betrayal and sacrifice, without neglecting charms suitable for a young audience.
The choreography by Alicia Alonso of Swan Lake will be seen at the National Theatre on February 13th, 14th and 15th, and also on the following weekend: 20, 21 and 22 of the same month. The National Ballet of Cuba will present in the starring roles to leading dancers such as Viengsay Valdes, Anette Delgado, Sadaise Arencibia, Amaya Rodriguez, Dani Hernández, Victor Estevez and Jose Carlos Lozada. The central roles of the work will be also assumed by the main figures of the company such as Grettel Morejon, Estheisy Menendez and Alfredo Ibáñez, among others artists on the rise.