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New York City Ballet: Swan Lake 2015

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Swan Lake 2015

Founders: George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master: Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 25, 2015

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews.)

Conductor: Daniel Capps
Violin Soloist: Arturo Delmoni

Swan Lake (1999): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by Peter Martins after Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, and George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Per Kirkeby, Costumes realized by Barbara Matera, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sterling Hyltin as Odette/Odile, Andrew Veyette as Prince Siegfried, Preston Chamblee as Von Rotbart, Marika Anderson as The Queen, Spartak Hoxha as Jester, Peter Walker as Benno, Sara Adams, Sarah Villwock, Peter Walker in Pas de Trois, Ashly Isaacs, Lauren King, Indiana Woodward, Daniel Ulbricht in Divertissement: Pas de Quatre, Claire Kretzschmar and Justin Peck leading Hungarian Dance, Georgina Pazcoguin and Adrian Danchig-Waring in Russian Dance, Meagan Mann, Gwyneth Muller, Daniel Applebaum, Andrew Scordato in Spanish Dance, Sarah Villwock and Sebastian Villarini-Velez leading Neapolitan Dance, Faye Arthurs, Ashley Hod, Claire Kretzschmar, Alexa Maxwell, Mary Elizabeth Sell, Mimi Staker as Six Princesses, Jacqueline Bologna, Baily Jones, Alexa Maxwell, Claire Von Enck as Four Small Swans, Students from School of American Ballet, and the Company.

I have always found the Peter Martins version of Swan Lake to be fascinating, with its synthesized story and score, its addition of several black swan costumes for the Corps in the Act II lake scene, its Neapolitan Dance, with a male and a female dancer leading an ensemble (rather than just duo males), its adherence to a solo Von Rotbart (in contrast to the duo- von Rothbarts in the Swan Lake across the Plaza), its Per Kirkeby abstract backdrops, and its differently designed fate for the leads, in the finale.

In tonight’s performance, my first City Ballet program for this 2015 Fall Season, Zachary Catazaro’s injury led to a cast change for Prince Siegfried, with Andrew Veyette now partnering Sterling Hyltin in her dual roles as Odette and Odile. Mr. Veyette is always gallant, attentive, and dynamic. However, there was little stage chemistry between the two, in this iconic, full-length, romantic ballet, and I longed for expressive yearning. When Mr. Veyette dashed offstage, seeking his beloved Odette, he was overly athletic, leading with his head and shoulders, rather than poised in an elegant line. Ms. Hyltin, au contraire, was on fire, impassioned, her head and torso thrust back, legs extended when lifted, her trembling and undulating arms as wings, a vision to behold. In the Grand Ballroom scene, Act II, Ms. Hyltin whipped out her requisite 32 fouettés with aplomb and speed, even a couple of double turns seen within. Mr. Veyette was filled with energy and flash in this sensational scene, but his emotionality was internalized, not shared with the deceptive, seductive Odile, whom he was supposed to believe was Odette, the ingénue, white swan. Once again, his own rapid turns and open-legged fouettés were athletically, more than balletically, driven. In the Act I Lakeside Scene, Odette’s longing and vulnerability were vividly expressed, with Ms. Hyltin in dramatic over-drive, drawing the audience in.

As Benno, Peter Walker seemed miscast, lacking the theatricality inherent in the role as Siegfried’s best friend, also caught in the forest of mystical swans. Mr. Walker is a fine, abstract dancer, but a more gesturally expansive dancer would have been appropriate here. As Von Rotbart, with bright orange under-wings, Preston Chamblee was superb, a muscular, imposing presence. Spartak Hoxha, as the Jester (the only character that seems extraneous, a comical, ebullient, solo “Greek chorus”), worked quite well. Given the plot of love and loss, with the broad brush of tragic fate, the Jester is an unwelcome distraction. But, as mentioned above, I find Mr. Martins’ choreography transfixing and transporting. Marika Anderson, as Siegfried’s mother, the Queen, was regal and steady. The four cygnettes, here called “Four Small Swans”, were outstanding in the tightly joined and synchronized footwork. The Pas de Trois, with Benno and two female guests at Siegfried’s birthday fest, was pleasant, as was the Divertissement for four, with Daniel Ulbricht in an unusual minor role. He partnered three women with buoyant, rhythmic style. But, the coup de grace (second to Ms. Hyltin’s solos and spotlights) was the series of Grand Ballroom dances.

In the Hungarian Dance, Justin Peck (who should be cast once as Prince) gallantly partnered Gretchen Smith, supported by a rambunctious, kicking ensemble. Mr. Peck and Ms. Smith exuded chemistry and panache. Likewise, in the Russian Dance, Georgina Pazcoguin and Adrian Danchig-Waring were in brilliant form, crackling with charisma and enthusiasm. The Spanish and Neapolitan dances, as well, were eye-catching and fully defined. Finally, the Six Princesses, each pursuing a marital offer from the oh, so single Prince Siegfried, danced beautifully, with Tschaikovsky’s bristling tempos. Arturo Delmoni, on solo violin, kept the mood sensuous and surreal, while Daniel Capps, on the Conductor’s podium, brought out luster from City Ballet Orchestra.

Kudos to all.

Sterling Hyltin
in Peter Martins' "Swan Lake"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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