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American Ballet Theatre

'Swan Lake'

by Lori Ibay

June 28, 2003, 8pm -- Metropolitan Opera House, New York

On the last day of their spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House, American Ballet Theater gave a solid performance of Kevin McKenzie's production of the full-length classic, "Swan Lake." With elaborate sets and lavish costumes by Zack Brown, and superb performances from the dancers in leading roles, the Saturday afternoon audience had much to applaud about.

Jose Manuel
Carreño's mild-mannered Prince Siegfried beautifully complimented Julie Kent's pure and innocent Odette while providing a wonderful contrast to Kent's seductive Odile. Carreño displayed exquisite control of his pirouettes, powerful and graceful jumps, and just enough emotion to convey but not overstate the Prince's turmoil.

Kent was stunning in her portrayal of the dual Odette and Odile characters, with swanlike arms and delicate bourrees that made her seem to glide across the stage like a swan on water.

Carreño and Kent worked well together as partners, with smooth, fluid motions and well-executed lifts, especially in the third act. In the Black Swan pas de deux, the highlight of the performance, Carreño and Kent displayed powerful technique in Carreño's precise jumps and Kent's exemplary fouettes, as well the perfect blend of emotion, especially as the plot escalates and the Prince realizes his mistake.

The highlight of the pas de trois in Act I was Joaquin De Luz as Benno dancing with Anna Liceica and Anne Milewski. Executing his characteristic high jumps and dancing with beautifully pointed feet and clean lines, De Luz seemed to exude joy from his entire being. This performance -- his last with ABT -- was a fantastic finish to a marvelous career with the company.

Although Brian Reeder and Sascha Radetsky were mismatched in size, each dancer ably depicted his side of the shared character of the villainous von Rothbart. Reeder, looking like the Swamp Thing, demonstrated sheer power and evil in his elaborate mime. Radetsky, as the purple-clad wizard, showed great attention to detail, revealing a cunning and manipulative sorcerer with every motion, gesture, and _expression. Unfortunately, in contrast to Reeder' towering posture, Radetsky's relatively smaller frame did not fully convey the commanding power of the character, especially with the princesses and Odile rising taller than him on pointe.

The ensemble supported the performances of the lead dancers well, bringing colorful gaiety to the Prince's birthday party in Act I and the Great Hall in Act III. However, while the choreography in Act III charmingly represented the different countries of the princesses, the dancers were somewhat restricted in their elaborate (yet colorful) costumes and character shoes.

The corps of swans also provided a beautiful backdrop, with solid performances from Stella Abrera and Monique Meunier as the demi-soloists, and precise synchrony from the quartet of cygnets, danced by Karin Ellis-Wentz, Renata Pavam, Misty Copeland, and Maria Riccetto.

Overall, the dazzling moments provided by the leading cast and supporting ensemble, allowed the audience to overlook small distractions, such as the recurring sharp trills of the orchestra's strings, the unusually loud stage (which seemed to magnify the squeaking of shoes during pirouettes) and the clattering of pointe shoes during the swans' entrances and exits. The audience's standing ovation at the curtain call demonstrated that excellent dancing more than made up for minor shortcomings
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