Guest Review by Christofer de Oni

Since the beginning of time, stories of humans turning into animals has captivated the imagination.  Men have turned into lions, tigers, dragons and horses.  But for me, nothing beats a woman turning into a swan.  Especially when the woman is Nina Ananiashvili.  I truly cannot tell you how many times I have seen Swan Lake; or the different versions and "takes".  Like Grigorovich's version, with Von Rothbart as Siegfried's alter ego and its abysmal happy ending.  Give me that great leap to death and live [in heaven?] happily ever after ending...

Kevin McKenzie, artistic director of American Ballet Theater has his own "take" on
Swan Lake and I don't dislike it.  He inserted a prologue in which Von Rothbart is actually two characters---a horned (ram-like) mythological man-animal and seductive bearded courtier who slyly captures a young maiden and turns her into a swan.  Got that?  Mr. McKenzie smartly has been faithful to the Ivanov 2nd act, and the Black Swan pas de deux  is as we know it.  He has re-choreographed the divertissements in the grand ball to a successful degree.   Especially the Neapolitan, which here becomes a duo competition of spins and  jumps for two men.   

What makes Nina a great artist is her power to transmit emotions.  In the pas d' action (mime) when she tells Siegfried her tale by the lakeside--- how she was turned into a swan and the lake is filled with her mother's tears--- she commits to every movement in the action.  One sees those tears.  A gesture, a look in the famous white adagio can pierce the soul.  Some in the standing room were upset that more applause was not given afterwards...

Acknowledgement of a great dance passage can receive its proper tribute in silence. It was so spellbinding it was difficult to applaud.  The Russian choreographer Ivanov's genius was in fusing the choreography to Tchaikovsky's sumptuous score...the drama being lived through dance. Nina, wearing a stunning newly designed (not Barbie doll-inspired ) tutu and tiara looked like the queen she is.  Odette's variation was slightly off tempo but, who cares???  The coda with its electric entrechats and final transformation into the swan was, as Tchaikovsky's closing second act describes, ravishing.   The Black Swan was ruby red fire and diamond ice.  Her most frequent partner at ABT, the Argentinean Julio Bocca, had an off night in his solos and a miscue in the partnering of the pas de deux, but both are pros and they cover mistakes with aplomb. [Christofer attended only the June 20 performance.]  Odile's variation with its sharp turns and glittering petite pas de bourré were clean and seductive.  The 32 fouettés were on a dime.  The last act, which in this version is short and merged with the third act, never lacks dramatic fervor.  The jump into the lake and after-life scene with a radiant sunrise as background--- plus a chorus of violins playing--- can make even the most hardened balletomane cry.  Including myself.  My wife Sarita and I traditionally give Nina a flower -throwing ovation at the end and we love it when dozens of people come up to tell us what an emotional impact the performance gave them.  To Nina, it comes naturally.

Christofer De Oni

Note: The Friends of Nina in New York thank Christofer for his straight-from-the-heart review of Nina’s performance. You can always tell if Christofer is in the audience. He’s the one screaming “Bravo! Nina Assoluta!”