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Review: A Gorgeous Swan Lake

Even the early dress rehearsal of Richmond Ballet's "Swan Lake" was dazzling


On Thursday at lunchtime, the Carpenter Theater at Center Stage was crowded with school children. The Richmond Symphony tuned up in the pit, and Cat Studdard, Richmond Ballet’s Minds In Motion Director, stood onstage with a microphone, talking over the din of violins and French horns. She was introducing a row of ballet dancers in Swan Lake costumes and full make-up, some with leg warmers still on. For its big story ballets, Richmond Ballet turns dress rehearsal into a community engagement event, bringing Minds in Motion students from schools all over Richmond, and even, in this case, Charlottesville, to watch a condensed version of act one, and get a little backstory on the production. Studdard introduced dancers and asked them to describe their roles, passing the microphone around informally and eliciting cheers from each group of children, who waved and cheered for the dancers they recognized from school visits earlier in the year. After introductions, the dancers left the stage to finish their preparations, and the audience waited. At noon, the fun began. the Ballet presented a one-hour, condensed version of the first two acts of Swan Lake for the school children, and then finished the rest of its dress rehearsal, the complete acts III and IV, in the whispering silence of an empty theater. From the beginning, it was clear: this production is not one to be missed. The sets and costumes, on loan from San Francisco Ballet, are rich with color and detail. The lighting design shimmers. And the dancers -- the dancers look stunning. From the lively waltzes at the palace to the accomplished and mesmerizing performance of the swan corps de ballet, the company shines. This cast featured Shira Lanyi as Odette/Odile and Thomas Garrett as Prince Siegfried. Lanyi is the company’s first Odette/Odile who came up through the School of the Richmond Ballet. And she has clearly studied, and is close to mastering, this potent dual role. Her Odette conveys a profound sense of the human woman preoccupied by her plight, reaching out to the one person – it could be anyone, really, though Prince Siegfried happens along – who may be willing to help her. Through her gleaming technique, through her inward-looking gaze even as she rests against Siegfried, Lanyi shows us Odette’s sorrow at knowing that no one outside herself can truly understand the depth of her tragedy – the beauty and sorrow, in essence, of the human experience . [Ed. Note: The entire weekend run was nearly sold out when this story arrived].