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'Swan Lake' by Tchaikovski - Live Broadcast in 3D from the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 , ora 8.51
On the evening of Thursday, 6th June, an extraordinary performance of Swan Lake, broadcast live from the sumptuous main hall of the old Mariinsky Theatre, marked the 275th anniversary of the Russian Ballet. The event was broadcast in more than 50 countries (on no less than 1200 screens!) in Europe, America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, including Romania (at the Grand Cinema Digiplex Băneasa). The exceptional technical conditions provided by the Cameron Pace Group, the America-based company of James Cameron and Vince Pace, made it possible for a ballet performance to be viewed in 3D, for the very first time. The technology that was used was very similar with what was used to create such motion pictures as Avatar, Hugo, or the Life of Pi. The spectators were able to fully live every moment of the performance, with the feeling that they could touch the dancers, breathe the same air they do, and that they are part of the events unfolding before them, giving them great joy.

The St. Petersburg ballet school has trained some of the most famous and respected dancers in the world, among them Pavlova, Nureyev, and Barishnikov. They all danced on the now legendary stage, which happens to also be the stage where Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake premiered in January 1895, with the choreography by Marius Petipa (acts I and III) and Lev Ivanov (acts II and IV). Despite having seen new and original choreographies (such as John Neumeier's from 1976 and Mats Ek's from 1987), the classic version of Swan Lake has survived for over a century, with all its beauty, novelty and poetry intact.

The director of this live, 3D broadcast of a ballet performance - again, a world premiere! - was Englishman Ross MacGibbon, a former ballet dancer himself (he was part of a production of Swan Lake during which he danced on the same stage as the famous Rudolph Nureev), and who is now employed as an image director for the Royal Ballet of London, specialising in filming opera and ballet shows. Under his guidance, the camera managed to always find the best shooting angles and the most spectacular perspectives, while also capturing the most intimate glances and gestures. Also involved in the broadcast were the specialists employed by the English company Glass Slipper Live Events, who have also worked on a large number of Michael Jackson shows. It is no surprise then, that under such exceptional circumstances, this Swan Lake production, broadcast live from the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, will live on as an special, unique, moment in the memories of everyone who watched it.

The Russian Ballet School has been, and continues to be, a staple in the international dancing world. Russian ballet dancers combine in their art a certain force and expressiveness which are easily recognized as their own, as well as grace, poetry, a level of technique matching that of acrobats, all elements that have yet to be matched. For this festive world premiere, the Mariinsky Theatre brought together on its stage artists that are representative of the quality of its ballet ensemble. Taking the role of Odette/Odile was Ekaterina Kondaurova, the dancer who in 2006 was awarded the equivalent of the Oscar for ballet dancing, the Benois de la Danse prize; grace and steadiness, poetry and strength, tenderness and aggression, intense emotion and an astounding semblance of lightness, of effortlessness in executing passages of acrobatic virtuosity; an artistic personality with an overwhelming intelligence, and absolute dedication and involvement to and with the character. Alongside charismatic Ekaterina Kondaurova (first ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater since 2011, with a huge repertoire including all the great roles in the repertoire of classical ballet), young Timur Askerov (Azerbaidjan) became vulnerable through his... youth and lack of experience (his repertoire currently consists of only this role, prince Siegfried from Swan Lake). But the fact that the Mariinsky Theatre recruited him for the ballet ensemble in 2011 and barely a year a later promoted him to the position of soloist should be reason enough to make one pay a closer look to his evolution during the following ballet seasons. Just as young - having graduated from the Vaganova Academy in 2088 - but with a much more consistent stage presence, Vasili Tkachenko performed a buffoon which was colourful, and particularly spectacular through his very high and complex jumps, which he executed with impressive control. In fact, we must acknowledge, and with great pleasure, that the entire ballet corps of the theatre is very endowed - both in technique, expressiveness and grace.

The music written by Tchaikovsky for what I believe was his most beloved ballet, is, turn after turn, symphony, instrumental concert, character dance, fantasy... The composer is widely recognized as one of the most inspired creators of melody of all time. The music is easy to dance to, it seems to almost require the dance moves which accompany and are complemented by it. Conductor Valery Gergiev, general and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, and also the main conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, has professed, during several interviews, his love for Tchaikovsky's music, which he understand and interprets in a less explosive manner than other maestros of the baton, in a more introspective fashion, with more colour and sensibility. The renowned orchestra of the theatre lay before him, and, with these wonderful musicians, the conductor had no trouble at all in achieving the interpretation he desired. Unrelated to the performance itself, but closely tied into the personality and career of this monumental conductor, is the information posted on the Mariinsky Theatre's website, from which I learned that after this particular performance of Swan Lake (6th June), Gergiev was scheduled to conduct Aida in the same theater (7th June), The Rhine Gold (from The Ring of the Nibelungs, 11th June), Walkyrie (13th June) and a Rachmaninoff symphonic programme(14th June)!

The mandatory artistic and technical requirements, the importance of the 275 years of history of the Russian Ballet School, the status of his world premiere - the first ballet performance to be broadcast live in 3D, which was sure to draw the attention of people across the world - put a great burden of responsibility on the artists, and resulted in equally colossal emotions. This must have been the reason for certain hesitations, small instances where dancers were out of sync, a discreetly trailing tempo in the succession of scenes (particularly during the beginning), excessive safety precautions for the more technical moves... Insignificant details which pale in comparison to the overall magnificence of the resulting artistic product which, on the night of 6th June, filled our hearts with joy.

Cristina Sârbu
Translated by Șerban Dudău and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, The University of Bucharest