★★★★★ - Irresistible
In Nevada Ballet Theatre's most recent production at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, where it is the Resident Ballet Company, choreographer Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake received a most illustrious performance, a sumptuous and wondrous event that was a must see for ballet aficionados and newcomers alike. This most iconic love story in all of ballet is fraught with fear and bliss, intrigue, and surrender, and is set to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, gloriously enveloping the romantic fable of ill-fated love. A dramatic and emotional success, beautiful and atmospheric throughout, this moving experience warranted a rousing standing ovation at the curtain call for the last of four public performances and one student matinee.
The original production premiered in 1877 at The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, to very critical reviews. Peter Tchaikovsky, a well-respected composer of the time, was invited to create the musical score. This original version was choreographed by Julius Reisinger. Later in 1895, the great ballet choreographers and teachers, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, choreographed a revival for the Imperial Ballet at The Mariinsky Theatre. All modern-day ballet companies base their productions off of the revival. This legendary collaboration between Petipa and Tchaikovsky also produced Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.
NBT’s version was choreographed by Ben Stevenson, O.B.E., who has compressed the original four acts into two uninterrupted halves, which he first staged in this form in 1984 (Acts 1 and 2 merge, as do acts 3 and 4). He's given the Queen Mother more importance as a (non-dance) role; made some cuts and reshufflings in the score, and provided the Act III divertissements with a nice touch by having the four Princesses -- candidates for Siegfried's hand in marriage -- come from four different nations, corresponding to the musical styles that Tchaikovsky invokes. Even at 84 years of age, and having directed for over 50 years, Mr. Stevenson traveled to Las Vegas to work with NBT on this production -- and made some changes during the final week of rehearsals.
As NBT Artistic Director Roy Kaiser pointed out during the pre-performance Insights session: “The scope of Stevenson’s version works best for NBT’s regional troupe of twenty-five dancers”.
Mirella Costa Neto, the ballerina in the key, dual roles of Odette/Odile, presented a joyful zest and flirtatious spirit that was technically flawless -- with strong and fierce movement as Odile. Both Sergio Alvarez, as Prince Siegfried, and Benjamin Tucker, as Von Rothbart, showed grace and perfection in their interpretations.
The Pas de Six (Brooke Lyness, Steven Goforth, Rachel Thomson, Sergio Alvarez, Katherine Zimmerman, Enrico DeMarco) and Pas de Trois (Emma McGirr, Robert Mulvey, Lydia Herman) of Act I and the divertissements of Act III were excellently danced; the two solo Swans (Rachel Thomson and Katherine Zimmerman) and the Cygnets (Brittany Bruno, Erika Crawford, Betsy Lucas, Emma McGirr) in Act II also merit special commendation. The ensemble dancing throughout was praiseworthy and the company looked strong, vibrant, and committed throughout.
Sixteen elegant and graceful Swans took to the stage for each performance, and Siegfried’s dance with four fiancées from different countries-- Spanish, Czardas, Neapolitan, and Mazurka -- adopting their national mannerisms, was a clever touch nicely conceived and very well danced.
Kudos should also be extended to production sponsor Nancy Houssels, NBT founding chairman and former dancer; répétiteur, Dawn Scannell; atmospheric lighting by Peter Jakubowski, which captured the richly changing elements of the ballet; set and costume design by Jose Varona -- with additional scenery and costumes courtesy of Milwaukee Ballet Company, and Peter Cazalet (Costumes Courtesy of BALLET WEST, Adam Sklute, Artistic Director) -- which stunningly achieved the autumnal arbor of the first act, the moonlit lakeside of the second and fourth, and the luxuriant palace ballroom of the third.
Now in its 48th Season, Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT) continues to bring the Las Vegas community closer to the art form of dance. With an affiliated Ballet and Dance Academy, as well as numerous education and outreach programs, NBT is at the heart of Las Vegas’ dance and cultural landscape.
In 1993, NBT established Future Dance to provide free in-school dance instruction and scholarship opportunities to students in need. Now in its 26th School Year, Future Dance is one of the longest running Education and Outreach programs in the state. With all its Education and Outreach initiatives combined, NBT successfully reaches over 20,000 students a year through these life-changing programs.
Ben Stevenson is a decorated and acclaimed ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer, whose Dracula was included in NBT’s 2018-19 Season. The English National Ballet asked him to stage his first ballet in 1967, the highly successful production of The Sleeping Beauty, which starred Dame Margot Fonteyn. In 1970 he and Fredrick Franklin became the Co-Artistic Directors of the National Ballet in Washington, D.C. While there, he choreographed Cinderella and staged a new production of The Sleeping Beauty for the inaugural season of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
For his contributions to the world of international dance, Mr. Stevenson was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) by Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year’s Honors Listed in December 1999. In April 2000 he was presented with the Dance Magazine Award, one of the most prestigious honors on the American dance scene. In 2005 Mr. Stevenson was awarded the Texas Medal of Arts.