Mystic Ballet gets high marks for 'Swan Lake' performance

Scuttling out onto the stage, ballerinas make a spidery entrance in the ballet "Swan Lake" performed by the Mystic Ballet Friday night at the Mystic Stage at Olde Mistick Village.

Clearly, this treatment of "Swan Lake" by choreographer Sergei Vanaev is not conventional – the women perform in the corps de ballet concept, but are not ornamental bodies providing an architectural framework – they are empowered; free of the classical confines that have been a long- held story ballet tradition.

This is a "Swan Lake" for contemporary audiences, and Mystic Ballet, in its last performance of the season, presented Act II from Vanaev's full-length ballet. This "Swan Lake" keeps the lush score by Tchaikovsky and the enchanted element of swan-humans, but has its own story line that plucks at the primal chords inherent in human nature – envy, desire, covetousness, and the ego's ceaseless battle between good and evil.

Tall, regal and thundering with the conflicting emotions of the prince character, Aleksander Subotic commanded the stage with both an animal magnetism as well as the soaring, ethereal ideal of a man. Tender and attentive to his partner, Hiroko Maehara, Subotic displayed an adept command of artistic interpretation impressive for a young dancer.

Ballerina Maehara, tiny and sprite-like, nevertheless displayed some fierce solos in which she exemplified classical training and discipline with crisp chaine turns, breathtaking extensions, buoyant leaps and feathery lands. Vanaev made a good choice in keeping the ballerinas off pointe – this is a much more organic "Swan Lake" he has crafted. It rises from the muck of primeval emotions to explore humanity's aspirations for enlightenment.

This Act II presentation of "Swan Lake" is a real treat – but to truly understand the interplay between the characters and the evolution of its thematic and dramatic elements so prevalent in Vanaev's work, the entire ballet needs to be seen. And once Mystic Ballet moves to its space at Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, it will have the space to fully stage this ballet.

The evening also consisted of a work by Brian Enos, "The Watcher" a hypnotic ballet that begins with a dancer rising from a chair as if compelled by an outside force to move, dream-like and fluid. Aleksander Subotic performed the "Watcher" character, an intriguing element of this ballet that expressed the ebb and flow of social and romantic interaction. Beginning with an ethereal quality, the ballet progressed to playfulness, with a duet by two male dancers who took the stage with drunken glee.

A truly romantic and lyrical ballet was performed in an excerpt from Laura Edson's "Sun and Steel." Primarily a duet that again paired the dynamic Subotic and Maehara, this ballet lifts the spirit, is hauntingly gorgeous and also demands a technical and athletic prowess in its lifts and intricacies. Along with "The Watcher," Mystic Ballet will be bringing "Sun and Steel" and "Swan Lake" to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival's Inside/Out Series this summer, where they are returning for a second year.

Mystic Ballet has unfolded as a hub of contemporary dance that attracts high caliber choreographers who deploy classical ballet technique within engaging, thematic dance that is food for the soul. Athletic, sensual, and dynamic, this company is on the cusp of wider recognition as it prepares for its first season at Fox Theater.

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