First, Margot Fonteyn:
Then, Svetlana Zakharova:
Now, before I go further, note that I am not going to be saying that either dancer is “bad.” In fact, to be able to dance the Rose Adagio at all is a certain marker of success for any dancer,and both these ballerinas go well beyond merely being able to do the steps.
I don’t know if what I’m having a problem with in the Bolshoi version is the choreography or Zakharova herself. Whatever the cause, I’m just not getting “giddy teenager” out of her dancing here. I definitely got that out of Fonteyn’s interpretation, and also out of Aurelie DuPont’s, Olesya Novikova’s, and numerous others’.
You can see in the discussion below that there is some mention of port de bras (Zakharova’s arms never rise into fifth position toward the end of the adagio as she balances; apparently Fonteyn was the one who made this a standard of sorts). I wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t been pointed out, but it does make a lovely complement to the rose canopies that are sometimes behind Aurora as she dances and adds to her youthful daring.
What bothers me in the Bolshoi version is a sort of excessive formality that takes away from the ballet’s story, which is, at this point, that Princess Aurora is young and beautiful and checking out her suitors with charming innocence, totally unaware that there is a curse looming over her. But again, is this dancer or production?
The thought has occurred that maybe acting is not Zakharova’s strong suit, or that maybe some roles just aren’t hers. (I don’t much like her Kitri, either.) It could be the latter, as her Black Swan is one of the greatest in the world today. Certainly that was never one of Margot Fonteyn’s best roles.
This brings us to the old issue of typecasting. It’s said that Evgenia Obraztsova never got her Swan Lake at the Maryinsky because she was too short and had been typecast as a soubrette. As not being Odette/Odile translated for her into not being a prima ballerina, this was a painful exclusion for her and eventually drove her to the Bolshoi. But I’m wondering…you see, back in the day, in certain companies, one could rise to the top of the company without ever dancing roles that one was physically or personally unsuited for. It’s clearly not true in the Maryinsky, but it still appears to have some truth in the Bolshoi.
And I’m thinking, why is this a bad idea? Not every actress will play every role. Why shouldn’t this be true in ballet?