In the Joffrey’s Swan Lake, there’s no lake and no love, but there’s plenty of self-reflection | Dance | Chicago Reader

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In the Joffrey’s Swan Lake, there’s no lake and no love, but there’s plenty of self-reflection

Victoria Jaiani’s performance as Odette and Odile deserves better.


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Even Baryshnikov has professed his boredom with Swan Lake, the ballet that practically serves as a metonym for the entire genre. He isn't alone—must we endure the pomp of the court scenes when all anyone wants is to get on with the swans? Perhaps impatience with the four-act behemoth paved the way for abstract ballet. But would Swan Lake matter without the narrative (lust, love, the eternal search for the ideal mate, the idea that a woman without a marriage proposal is no better than an animal, etc) that holds its parts together?

Christopher Wheeldon's 2004 rendition doesn't reduce the familiar agony by shortening the ballet. Rather, Wheeldon strips the ballet of all attempts at storytelling by making the whole enterprise take place inside the walls of a ballet studio. Is ballet so out of touch that all it can imagine is itself? The mirror that serves as the central set piece seems a significant clue. Mercifully Wheeldon barely touches Act II and the Black Swan pas, without which those who love the ballet would surely riot. But Wheeldon turns the international parade of princesses seeking Siegfried's suit in Act III into a gala dinner where dancers perform for patrons—including a literal striptease.

On opening night, Victoria Jaiani danced a frail, nearly moribund Odette with downcast eyes and endless, fluid limbs supported by Dylan Gutierrez's noble Siegfried. Her Odile was a dazzling contrast, dangerously seductive, brilliantly alive in every nuance. How could Siegfried choose otherwise? Why should we?   v

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