The Royal Ballet returned to "Swan Lake" for its final weekend of performances at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Since stellar guest artists and several listed principals had left the tour before Costa Mesa, the company found itself presenting some interpretations of Siegfried and the Swan Queen never seen in England.
Dancing these roles for the second time, both Errol Pickford and Bonnie Moore brought strong technique and a distinctive sense of drama to the Saturday-matinee cast.
A winner of the Erik Bruhn Prize, Pickford danced his solos with authority and, alone of the weekend Siegfrieds, added an optional sequence of entrechats (crisp, high, perfectly placed) to the Black Swan pas de deux. Although an ardent, considerate partner, he emphasized Siegfried's very human alienation from the realm of swans and sorcery: an effective, individual touch.
Local audiences may remember Moore's fine Juliet and Clara with American Ballet Theatre--and, especially, her promising, upstaged Odette in a bizarre "Swan Lake," Act 2, patched together in 1986 to accommodate the performing whims of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Tiny and almost alarmingly thin, Moore again emphasized birdlike fragility--but, this time, added an aura of spellbound or dreamlike mystery.
Her softness as Odette contrasted with her sharp attacks and bold virtuosity as Odile--but contact and interplay with Siegfried remained scant, diminishing the cumulative impact of the narrative. As Rothbart, Stephen Wicks exuded enough menace that he could afford to understate the melodramatic gesticulation of the role.
On Sunday afternoon, Wicks played the Tutor and both Pickford and Moore turned up (with Nicola Roberts) in the Act I pas de trois. Here the Siegfried was Adam Cooper, a corps dancer drafted to partner Darcey Bussell, the statuesque lyric prodigy of the company.
In his second attempt at this assignment, Cooper did exactly what good corps dancers do: execute the steps accurately in the proper style without adding anything that might draw attention to himself. He also partnered Bussell with great care, helping make her majestic modulations of limb in the White Swan duet seem magically suspended in space and time.
For eloquent line and silken quality of movement, Bussell's performance constituted a major event--with virtually every phrase in the lakeside acts heightened, extended, enriched to maximum classical scale. But her acting consisted of facial masks (a pout for Odette, a smirk for Odile) and the Black Swan fouettes didn't end smoothly.
Among other weekend casting novelties, the buoyant Sergiu Pobereznic joined Lynne Bristow and Deborah Bull on Saturday night for an especially stylish pas de trois. On the same evening, the flamboyance of Tetsuya Kumakawa and the refinement of Fiona Brockway combined in a memorable Neapolitan divertissement. Philip Gammon conducted both matinee performances expertly.