“Murphy’s Swan Lake is a wonder to die for.”
There are many ballerinas who dream of dancing the dual role of Odette/Odile in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Of those, only a small percentage will have the opportunity to perform the role renowned stages. Not many will master even one of the two swans and fewer yet will master both.
American Ballet Theatre’s Gillian Murphy, stands tall among the handful of ballerinas whose combination of technique and artistry make her the perfect White and Black Swan. Her subtle hints throughout the performance paint a well-rounded picture that keeps the audience enthralled – her Swan Lake is a wonder to die for.
Murphy’s Odette is tender, scared and, most importantly, human. Many ballerinas try too hard to exude a swan-esque grace, an inhuman quality, but Murphy seems to understand that the Odette we see in Act II is in her human form. Of course, naturally, Odette has swan-like qualities and Murphy does not forget this, but she is unafraid of pausing, teasing the audience with penché’ed pictures and sorrowful stares.
In Act III, her Odile is spine-tingling. She executes the pas de deux easily and she sends the orchestra’s notes flying off the tips of her (imaginary) feathered fingers during her variation – in which she flaunts triple turns, suspended arabesques and a menage of riveting pirouettes. Her dancing climaxes in the famous fouettés, where she whips into doubles with her arms in a high, open-fifth like the wings of a swan.
The company’s corps de ballet, however, could use more than a little tightening. The four cygnets – so well known to all – were, on this particular night (17 June 2016), in every way, a disaster – with heads incorrectly times and feet becoming sloppy as the dancers clearly grew fatigued. The corps was often not in sync – something vital for a successful Swan Lake – and even the placements of their arms in resting positions were not uniformed.
Enough of that for now though, a more thorough review should (note the uncertainty!) be on its way quite soon once I see the final two Swan Lakes this weekend.