BWW Reviews: LES BALLETS DE MONTE CARLO Brings Jean-Christophe Maillot's Darkly Compelling Adaptation of 'Swan Lake' to NYC
I'm not a fan of the fact that standing ovations, once reserved for truly superb performances, have become almost routine in NYC. Often, in spite of not being able to see the curtain calls while everyone in front of me is up and blocking my view, I remain stubbornly in my seat if I feel that plain old clapping is sufficient. Yet on the evening of Friday, March 15th 2014 at City Center, I was on my feet with the rest of the audience to applaud Les Ballets de Monte Carlo's excellent performance of choreographer-director Jean-Christophe Maillot's "LAC - after Swan Lake". The ballet premiered in 2011 but the all-too-brief run from March 14th to 16th this year, celebrating Maillot's 20th anniversary with Monte Carlo, was the first chance NYC dancegoers have had to see this magnificent production. That's probably more superlatives than I've ever included in the first paragraph of any review!
Much of the credit for the daring revision of one of the most treasured ballets in the classical canon goes to award-winning French novelist Jean Rouaud, who is listed in the credits as the "dramaturgist". The playbill notes that Maillot had a "personal vision" for his updating of the tale of Siegfried and Odette and that he worked with Rouaud to explore themes such as animal versus human, good versus evil, and haunting fears from childhood. The felicitous collaboration was enhanced by the fine work of costume designer Phillipe Guillotel, lighting designer Samuel Thery with the choreographer, and additional music added to Tchaikovsky's score by Bertrand Maillot.
But enough about the creators. The dancers were technically and artistically terrific. Also, the tweaked plot demanded nuanced acting that the company members definitely delivered. I was especially impressed by Alvaro Prieto as the Prince's father, a role that doesn't exist in the original "Swan Lake." He was convincing even though he danced full out in many scenes right along with the corps. Prieto was never out of character even when he was flying high.
The clever subplot about the King's possible previous dalliance with Her Majesty of the Night, which may have resulted in the Black Swan being his love child, gave Prieto and Moimoza Koike as the Queen ample opportunity to emote magnificently. They never dissolved into melodrama and they infused a bit of understated humor into their interactions.