Sun, 14 Sep 2003

'Swan Lake' an enchanted evening for Jakarta ballet lovers

Chisato Hara, Contributor, Jakarta

The hush of the audience filling the seats of the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center in Central Jakarta was palpable as the house lights dimmed.

Even President Megawati Soekarnoputri and her entourage, who made an unannounced appearance, were indistinguishable from the rest of the guests in their anticipatory stillness and bated breath, waiting for the curtain to rise on Friday's first of two consecutive performance of Swan Lake by the Russian State Ballet of Moscow.

Softly, the opening bars to Tchaikovsky's ballet filled the theater, and the curtains parted to reveal a world awash with hues of blue and green. The lush terrace of a castle filled with youthful courtiers opened before our eyes, and in the distance, the broad expanse of an enchanted lake, lulling us into this classic fairy tale.

Swan Lake, as with all timeless fairy tales, is the simple story of true love vanquishing evil. In a faraway land, Prince Ziegfried falls in love with Odette, who has been transformed into a swan under the spell of the wicked sorcerer Rothbart, which can only be broken by true love.

The prince makes a vow of eternal love to her, and the sorcerer hatches a plan to make the prince break this vow - and so keep Odette under his powers forever. Tricked by the charms of Odile, the sorcerer's daughter, the prince mistakes her for Odette and chooses her as his bride. As he does so, he sees a vision of Odette outside the castle window.

The prince, despairing, rushes to the lake and professes his undying love to Odette. Rothbart appears and tries to claim her, but the prince fights the sorcerer and defeats him.

Artistic director Viatcheslav Gordeev's rendition of the classic choreography does justice to the fairy tale, bringing all its magic and wonder to Jakarta under the patronage of the President and various ministries, the Russian Embassy of Jakarta and corporate sponsors for the Indonesian Heart Foundation's annual fund-raising event.

It was truly a wonder to see the 50-strong troupe fill the stage on Friday, with notable performances by the Jester, soloist Vitaly Manin, who kept the audience giggling intermittently with his "Petrouschka"-like antics and provided comic relief, and Odile, danced by Irina Ablitsova, whose mischievous smile and seductive presence held us enthralled. Maya Ivanova's Odette, on the other hand, lent a mystical mood with her vulnerable grace.

Maxim Fomin, as Prince Ziegfried, seemed more like a swan with his coltish long legs than a dashing prince at first, but during his solo in Act II, he suddenly took flight, soaring over the stage with leaps and twirling mid-air in gravity-defying tours jete.

Dmitry Protsenko, as Rothbart, imbued the atmosphere with an ominous power as he spread his raven-black wings over Odette and her flock of swan-maidens.

During the final confrontation, Ziegfried violently rips off one of Rothbart's wings, killing the magician and so breaking the spell. As the lovers are reunited, the prophetic light of dawn permeates the scene -- they will live happily ever after.

In these recent times, when cynicism seems to prevail and there appears to be no clearly defined forces of black and white, perhaps some may find the test of true love a bit too lovey- dovey, too romantic, too fanciful.

But, as with the overly enthusiastic audience member who kept shouting out "Bravo!!" at every appearance of a principal dancer, it is such fairy tales of virtue and valor that keep our hearts alive, bringing with each rising dawn the hope that all will be well -- if only for an evening.