BWW Review: Tiler Peck Triumphs in New York City Ballet's SWAN LAKE, September 28, 2017
Peter Martins' production of the full-length "Swan Lake" has always been something of a curiosity to me. So many associate the ballet with intense dramatic overtones, or, in New York City Ballet's one act Balanchine version, with poetic musings, that when we see this version we are puzzled. Yes, the dancers look great, but what else is there? And a "Swan Lake" that leaves you feeling empty and hollow is not a "Swan Lake" at all.
Wednesday's big news was the debuts of Tiler Peck and Chase Finlay in the roles of Odette/Odile and the Prince. Anticipation was high, especially for Peck, a ballerina who has been headed for ballet superstardom without yet gaining the foothold she needs. If the production did not give her a chance to prove great theatrical flair, it surely did provide ample opportunity to display her technical skills, and she delivered, as the old saying goes, in spades. She was so perfect that it is almost impossible to say anything other than "wow." So now, in addition to Sara Mearns, NYCB has claimed another world class and name recognition ballerina.
Peck has always been a ballerina of exceptional technique, and she has proved this already in her previous full-length Tchaikovsky ballerina roles in "The Nutcracker" and "Sleeping Beauty." So "Swan Lake" seemed inevitable. I never thought her a natural fit for either Odette or Odile-perhaps it was what I perceived as a lack of thespian intensity that I saw in her. How was she to match her technical prowess with the blank theatrical canvas presented to her in this production?
I don't know what coaching she received for the part--or what she took upon herself to prepare-but the outcome did justify the means any dedicated ballerina puts in to her mental constitution when approaching an iconic ballet, knowing she'll be compared with just about anyone who has danced it before. If there was a lack of coherent mime to express despair, love or enticement, Peck still was able to convey these feelings through her body's formidable skill. Hopefully, we will be able to see her in a more coherent production sometime in the future.
Chase Finlay perhaps got lost in the deluge of roars that poured down. The Prince is not as showy as Odette/Odile, but he acquitted himself nobly. He was an excellent partner and did his best with the limited opportunities provided by the ballet's structural dramatic lapses. He is more than just a prince, and I've seen him in enough roles to know that he can break the mold when given the chance. We shall see as he develops.
I must give space to Troy Schumacher as the jester; Joseph Gordon as Benno; Abi Stafford and Zachary Catazaro in the Russian dance and especially Preston Chamblee as the snarky, malevolent von Rothbart. Now that was a villain!
The orchestra, led by Andrew Litton, played beautifully. Usually I carp at ballet orchestras, but under the direction of Mr. Litton, the orchestra has become one of the most distinguished in its field. There were no musical blunders-a rarity-and everything developed smoothly through the evening. I applauded them at the end!
So, another "Swan lake" down and a new ballet superstar. The latter I'll continue to watch with admiration; the first, well, there always might be another full length production at City Ballet. On the other hand, maybe not.