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Los Angeles Ballet's 'Swan Lake' is full of grace

Company will perform the classic on Saturday, March 17 at the Alex Theatre.

March 10, 2012|By Donna Perlmutter
  • Allyssa Bross & Christopher Revels in Los Angeles Ballet's Swan Lake, which comes to the Alex Theatre March 17 (Photo by Reed Hutchinson)
Allyssa Bross & Christopher Revels in Los Angeles…

Highly pedigreed? You bet. Well-known in the dance world? No question. But Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary have also passed the acid test: As directors of the Los Angeles Ballet, now in its sixth season, they can take a collective bow for their thoroughly sterling production of “Swan Lake.”

Just remember, not any old company can stage this icon of classical ballet. Oh, many with lesser artistic resources try. But to put on a show of so fine a caliber normally takes a bigger-than-big budget, dancer bench-depth, masterly and dedicated coaching.

What's more, they mounted their full-length extravaganza with the requisite number of performances.

“And that meant we had to find venues all over the city.” says Christensen, who led the eminent Royal Danish Ballet and is steeped in its standards of style and rigorous technique. “We had to travel to the audiences,” he adds, noting that people will venture out to an attraction, so long as it doesn't mean long drives through congested traffic.

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So from Westwood to Long Beach, with a stop at the Alex Theatre on March 17, the company is showing off its current jewel, “Swan Lake,” all feathery finery, moonlit mirages, pathos born of misfortune, good-versus-evil conflict.

Thus the mountain comes to Muhammad. And it is a mountain, what with the full-scale sets originally built at Pacific Northwest Ballet, Christensen's last post before he decamped to Los Angeles.

“In fact,” says the Danish-born danseur, “when you think about it, it's madness, dealing with four separate acts. We've had to extend intermission lengths just to do the set changes,” and that took the crew a week of practice just to learn how to move things along faster, he added.

But the décor is eminently beautiful, old-school poetic without looking old — or worn — and it accommodates to any standard proscenium. The costumes, too, are delicate pastels, setting off the pristine-white lakeside scenes.

What catches attention, though, apart from these details, is the totality of the spectacle — the dancers' total immersion in the action and feeling states, be they coryphees, peasants, courtiers, royalty.

As to the coaching, well, it is meticulous — in contrast, even, to some A-circuit “Swan Lake” productions, like the last one American Ballet Theatre brought on tour to L.A., where we saw casts that suffered rehearsal deficits.

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