By Shruti Vairagkar (LTH)
Composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake is one of the most popular of all ballets. It is a love story of Odette, a beautiful princess and Prince Siegfried. Baron von Rothbart, an evil sorcerer has cast a spell on her due to which she is a swan during the day and regains her human form at night. This spell can be broken only by the power of true love. It is story of magic, romance, some villainy, and heartbreak.
Brought to Delhi by Navrasa Duende in collaboration with Royal Russian Ballet, it was organised from 22nd to 24th September at Siri Fort Auditorium. There were five shows organised within these days, all of which were sold out!
Comprising four acts, the first and third acts are at the castle celebrating the Prince’s birthday. The second and fourth acts take place at a lake in the forest. The first act begins with the celebration of the Prince’s birthday where the Queen, his mother tells him he must marry. However, he would rather marry someone he loves than choose one of the princesses attending the ball. He leaves for hunting in the forest where he comes across a gaggle of swans dancing across the lake in their human form. He falls in love with the beautiful Swan Princess, Odette. Before he can profess his love for her, the evil sorcerer Rothbart separates the duo.
Back at the castle, royal guests from all over the world dance and make merry. The Prince dutifully dances with all the princesses present, however, his heart belongs to Odette. Rothbart enters the ball, as a guest and brings his daughter, the manipulative Odile disguised as Odette. Odile, clad in black is often called the Black Swan. The Prince overjoyed, professes his love for her. Odette witnesses this from the window and heartbroken, flees to the forest. Rothbart unveils Odile and the Prince, Queen, and the royal court are aghast. The Prince rushes to the forest to explain himself to Odette. Rothbart follows him, to hold him true to his promise to Odile. A fight ensues, and Prince kills Rothbart. The Prince and Odette reconcile and the spell is broken.
The first and third acts were joyful performances. The court jester leaping and prancing across the stage was a delight to watch. The stage bathed in colourful lights aptly conveyed the celebratory mood. The third act comprised a cheerful montage of dances from across the world – flamenco, waltzes, and middle-eastern. On the other hand, the other two acts were a contrast. Bathed in blue light to symbolize the lake, it cast a gloomy shadow on the ballerinas in their white tutus. Their grief at being turned into swans due to the spell was intensified by these lights.
On a personal note, seeing a ballet performance live was checking off an entry in my bucket list. After watching movies like Center Stage and Black Swan which offer a glimpse into the world of ballet, seeing it on stage was everything I expected it to be and more. Ballet, a performing art is perhaps one of the most difficult with the dancers learning from a very young age and training for hours together every day. I was mesmerised watching the dancers, from the Prima Ballerina, the lead dancers to the other supporting dancers execute flawless pirouettes and fouettes. Although my seat wasn’t close enough to the stage from where I could appreciate the expressions, the stances and movements of the dancers along effectively conveyed their emotions. The crescendos and diminuendos of the recorded music supported them.
A thorn in my otherwise wonderful experience was the venue. Siri Fort is not the ideal venue for such performances. A semicircular seating arrangement around stage in the centre, makes it difficult for the audience sitting on the sides of the auditorium to view the performance. A theatre style seating with straight rows would have been more suitable. The larger stage could have also helped the performers who were often standing on the edge or outside the lighted area of the stage. Nevertheless, I came out of Swan Lake moved by the beauty of the production and in awe of the dancers and their art.
To describe my experience in a nutshell, it was (the oft repeated phrase) a poetry in motion.
To learn further about Navrasa Duende and their future events, visit www.navrasaduende.com/