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Les Ballets de Monte Carlo Presents "LAC" after "Swan Lake" at New York City Center
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Les Ballets de Monte Carlo Presents "LAC" after "Swan Lake" at New York City Center

- Onstage with the Dancers

Salon Ziba

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Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
In association with New York City Center & Ardani Artists

after Swan Lake

Choreographer-Director: Jean-Christophe Maillot
Scenography by Ernest Pignon-Ernest
Costumes by Philippe Guillotel
Dramaturgy by Jean Rouaud
Additional Music by Bertrand Maillot
Lighting by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Samuel Thery

Press: Helene Davis Public Relations

At New York City Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 15, 2014

Cast: The King: Alvaro Prieto, The Queen: Mimoza Koike, Her Majesty of the Night: Maude Sabourin, The Prince: Stephan Bourgond, The White Swan: Anja Behrend, The Black Swan: April Ball, The Confidant of the Prince: Jeroen Verbruggen, The Archangels of Darkness: Asier Edeso and Bruno Roque, The Pretenders: The Vain one: Liisa Hämäläinen, The False Indifferent one; Noelani Pantastico, The Libertine ones: Anjara Ballesteros and Anne-Laure Seillan, The Voracious one: Gaëlle Riou, and the Company as Hunters, Chimeras, and The Court.

I arrived tonight not looking for a traditional Swan Lake, but a campy, at least unique take on the renowned ballet, perhaps in the tone of Graeme Murphy’s 2012 presentation by The Australian Ballet at NY City Center. No spring or summer goes by in New York without at least one or two versions of the Odette-Odile favorite, and balletomanes judge each against their personal heroes and heroines, principals from local companies or guest artists. Few visiting, traditional Swan Lakes can surpass what we already know and anticipate, season after season.

So, I was thrilled with Jean-Christophe Maillot’s LAC after Swan Lake, with its duo lead ballerinas, called The White Swan (Anja Behrend) and The Black Swan (April Ball). A media montage, with a pre-ballet, black-white film serves as a prologue, and the audience sees The Prince (no Siegfried here), flirting as a child with a little fair-haired girl, who grows into the woman, who’s turned into a swan. The other little dark-haired girl is daughter of Her Majesty of the Night (Maude Sabourin), a female version of von Rothbart, the sorcerer in the traditional ballet. One senses a bond between The King (Alvaro Prieto) and Her Majesty of the Night, who’s attired in giant foreboding black feathers. The Queen (Mimoza Koike) dances with Graham-like angst, her pelvis and torso crunched and thrust, trying to ward of her natural enemy from her husband, who’s torn between sad, maternal wife and sexy night lady. The Prince has a Confidant (Jeroen Verbruggen), instead of the traditional pal Benno, and Her Majesty of the Night has two Archangels of Darkness (Asier Edeso and Bruno Roque), evocative of Carabosse’s insect men, from Sleeping Beauty.

The story of The Prince’s 21st birthday, as his time to choose a Princess at the ball, is intrinsic in Maillot’s version as well, but with much heightened drama, as The Black Swan could be The Prince’s half-sister, and The White Swan is a target of her black-costumed counterpart, as well as the black-feathered Majesty of the Night. Among The Prince’s suitors, the ladies hoping to catch a ring and a palace, are some campy comical characters. They are called, here, instead of Princesses from exotic lands, “The Pretenders”. The Vain One (Liisa Hämäläinen), well, you can guess, dances with theatrical flair, The False Indifferent One (Noelani Pantastico), The Libertine Ones (Anjara Ballesteros and Anne-Laure Seillan), and the Voracious One (Gaëlle Riou) all show up to literally grab The Prince. Remaining Company dancers are Hunters, Chimeras, and The Court. Much of the ensuing dance drama relates to the mystery of The King and Her Majesty of the Night, as well as to The White Swan’s desire to morph back to a woman, which requires a marriage proposal set in stone, literally. With The Black Swan confusing the torn Prince, the end seems more Martha Graham modern than balletic: an extended family at each other’s throats.

I found this unique LAC to be entertaining and thought-provoking, magnetic and filled with surprise. Whenever a new ballet comes to town, the audience sits with extreme stillness, absorbing the newness. Even for non-balletomanes, and it seemed some were in tonight’s crowd, being wooed with a wild stage fantasy can be worthwhile as a thread to the quilt of New York’s multitudinous dance seasons. All Mr. Maillot’s dancers in Les Ballets de Monte Carlo are listed together, no differentiation by skill or status. I wish more large companies would adhere to this, as so many New York ballets are danced, year after year, by the same lead principals, with an occasional guest or soloist turn at a major role. This practice leads to a sameness of seasons, changed only by the inclusion of new visiting artists. Many corps dancers are always in the background, for years on end. The Artistic Director has wonderful opportunities, with a Company like tonight’s, to switch dancers, when injuries or illness occur, but also when one dancer sparks electricity in rehearsal. Also, organizing a Company as one single entity keeps all dancers “on their toes”, so to speak.

Mr. Maillot moved musical sections of the Tchaikovsky score, with a bit of modernist ornamentation here or there by Bertrand Maillot. Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s scenic design was minimal, with the compact, New York City Center stage, but the addition of projections added depth and drama to the production. Philippe Guillotel’s costumes, with black, grey, and/or white feathers were shocking and magnificent, at once. The headpieces were right out of Mardi Gras. Jean Rouaud expanded the mystery with his collaboration in dramaturgy, and Samuel Thery worked with Mr. Maillot in lighting, a major element in this ballet’s design. Choreography is muscular and propulsive, even during the romantic lake scenes, while dancing at the ball is mayhem, start to finish. A standing ovation greeted the curtain call.

Anja Behrend and Cast
in Maillot's LAC after Swan Lake
Courtesy of Alice Blangero

April Ball and Anja Behrend
in Maillot's LAC after Swan Lake
Courtesy of Laurent Philippe

Stephan Bourgond and Cast
in Maillot's LAC after Swan Lake
Courtesy of Angela Sterling

The LAC Cast
in Maillot's LAC after Swan Lake
Courtesy of Laurent Philippe

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at