To fully surround myself with, even immerse in, ballet was my goal as part of the preparations to this project. I am happy to report that I am dutifully succeeding:
Last Wednesday (Feb 27) I attended the Swan Lake Talk Party at Bergli Bookshop – to which Richard Wherlock, Ballet Director at the Theater Basel, was invited to speak but had to cancel due to illness. In his place Catherine Brunet, the Company Manager, hosted the discussion. She answered my question, why so many ballet photographers were ex-dancers, with the obvious reasoning that it was their innate timing as dancers which helped them press the release button at the right time. Though not completely satisfactory to me – as I am not interested in the mere documenting of dance in my project, but more so in a staging especially for photography – her response was logical and appreciated. Ms Brunet, while almost immediately dismissing the possibility of incorporating dancers of the Ballet Basel in my project, kindly offered me her business card and provided me with contacts within the Basel independent ballet scene.
Tonight (Moday, March 3) I went to see A Swan Lake at the Theater Basel. With a seat in the very last row up in the gallery I was able to overlook the stage well, but had little chance to really get drawn into the piece and no way of recognizing any mimics. I would also like to point out at this time that I am in no way a ballet connaisseur and that all following remarks are strictly my humble opinion as a layman.
I did appreciate the new take on the very traditional piece – I specially enjoyed the addition of the scene where the princess’ mother’s ghost appears to her, helping her lost daughter grow into a woman and bestowing on her the secret to the reversal of the counselor’s evil spell which transformed the brothers into swans. Also of note is the reoccurring swan-pose which I am assuming Richard Wherlock created, where the dancers crouch down with their knees apart and one arm extended over their heads with the hand formed into a beak.
Photo by Ismael Lorenzo, Theater Basel
Overall, sadly, I was disappointed in the dancers’ performance, for there were numerous evident timing and synchronization issues. But there were exceptions to be pointed out; Ayako Nakano for example danced wonderfully in the role of Rothbart’s daugher, Manuel Renard delivered an athletic portrayal of Rothbart and one of the brothers, danced by Roderick George (?), managed to bring comical relief and his naturally friendly and compassionate mimics shone all the way to the very last ranks of the theater.