SWANS DANCE, an evil sorcerer schemes and a handsome prince vows to fight unto death to save the woman he loves. A packed hall at Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium watched fascinated as Swan Lake, a ballet composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875, came alive on stage. Swan Lake is considered a masterpiece and is among the most performed in the world, but this is the first time in decades that a classical ballet of such scale has been mounted in the capital.
A long line stretched towards the gate and a variety of accents filled the air. Among the older members of the audience, it invoked memories of the era in which Russian companies would regularly bring their productions to India. Past the security check and into the lobby, the audience members were greeted by men and women roaming arm in arm, wearing elaborate masks and feathers. These performers set the mood for the action that eventually unfolded in the hall. Many members of the audience responded by fishing out their cellphones and taking a quick picture.
As incessant rain poured over Delhi, white swans danced in a magical lake. Prince Siegfried pointed a crossbow at them but stopped short when one of the birds transformed into a beautiful woman. She told him that a cruel magician had turned her and her companions into swans, and they could only get back their human forms at night. Only a vow of eternal love can break the evil spell.
performance of nature
Director Anatoliy Kazatskiy has maintained the classical nature of the performance, and the young troupe brought alive the spectrum of emotions that Tchaikovsky’s musical score is famous for — from melancholy to hope, terror to tenderness, despair to joy and the final fight of good and evil. Every act ended with a long applause from the hall. The music recorded rather than performed live in the pit as happens with major productions, and a bigger stage would have enabled the ballerinas to execute their pirouettes and leaps better. Matsak Natalia played one of the most challenging roles in classical ballet, of the White Swan and the Black Swan, and was convincing as a figure of innocence — but she seemed to enjoy being evil more.
Chetan Seth, a businessman who has followed performances of Swan Lake in Russia, Cuba and the US, said, “It is interesting that, abroad, men turn up in bow ties and women in gowns and they have champagne from the bar and go for dinner afterward. We should get to see more Western classical ballet in India.” Navrasa Deunde, which brought Swan Lake to India, is planning to stage Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker next.