Grimaldi Forum Monte-Carlo– December 28, 2011

There have been some changes recently in Monte-Carlo, with the name ‘Ballets de Monte-Carlo’ now including not only the ballet company but also the annual Monaco Dance Forum and the Dance Academy Princess Grace. All are directed by the company director, Jean-Christophe Maillot, and benefit from the patronage of Princess Caroline and funding from the Princess Grace Foundation. Following a series of performances presented as part of the Monaco Dance Forum in December, La Compagnie Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo premiered Maillot’s version of Swan Lake, simply entitled Lac. Ten years in the planning, this updated and very personal version follows similar productions by Maillot, including Cinderella, Beauty and Romeo and Juliet, which have brought the company much success and popularity on their international tours.

A regular coterie of collaborators included the writer Jean Rouaud, who was charged with re-writing the scenario. On discovering the original story for the first time, Rouard found it ‘ridiculous’ and totally unusable for a contemporary choreographer, deciding to retain simply the ideas of black and white, good and evil, or day and night. However, the result is a ballet in twenty-nine scenes, complicated and confused, with extraneous new ideas such as the suggestion that the Black Swan is the illegitimate child of the King, Siegfried’s father, and that Siegfried is homosexual. We are also left with those ubiquitous characters from 19th century ballets, a corps of other-worldly beings and a lovelorn prince. However, Rothbart is replaced by ‘Her Majesty the Night’, who is escorted by two black-clad archangels and who plays a major role. Act 1 takes place during an extended ball scene, opening with some very lively, well-danced choreography, followed by the entrances of five would-be fiancées attempting to win Siegfried’s favour. Maillot has cut the music to pieces, producing a sort of pot-pourri which often is difficult to accept, leaving one of the fiancées dancing to the male solo from the usual Act 1 Pas de Trois, and the entrance of Her Majesty the Night, most incongruously, to the music for the cygnets. She then presents to Siegfried the Black Swan, disguised as a young girl, but he remains disinterested, causing his parents, the King and Queen to despair, but which brings about some interesting and expressive choreography. Against a background of rugged rocks and caves, Act 2 is a ‘white’ Act, with swans and Odette, now called The White Swan, and Siegfried, falling in love at first sight. However, these swans are not the usual protective companions to the White Swan, but they torment her quite violently, disapproving of her ability to turn into a human during the night. The sublime Act 2 pas de deux is replaced – although danced to the same music- by a childish, naïve, if touchingly performed duet, and at daylight, she is condemned to return to her swan form. However, the scene ends with Siegfried raising his hand and swearing faithfulness in a truly 19th century manner.

Act 3 is the final act and takes place at the palace, set as Act 1, among drapes and curtains in black and white, often dramatically and effectively lit. Her Majesty the Night arrives with the White Swan, whom Siegfried introduces as his bride, but at the height of a passionate pas de deux, she is magically replaced by the Black Swan. There is much confusion from now on, a great deal of lively dancing from the company, and battles between the ‘good’ King and Queen and the ‘evil’ Majesty the Night. A final scene takes place in front of the rocky landscape with the entire company disappearing into a cave-like opening and Her Majesty the Night left centre stage, and presumably victorious.

The performance is saved by the magnificent dancing of the entire company, always unfailingly energetic and impeccably precise. There are also outstanding performances from Gaëtan Morlotti and Mimoza Koike as the King and Queen, Bernice Coppieters as Her Majesty the Night, and especially, Jeroen Verbruggen as the Prince’s Benno-like companion.

 Dancing Times