The dual role of Odette-Odile in "Swan Lake" challenges a ballerina to portray both good and evil. A dancer may triumph over the technical hurdles but still not make the two moral extremes equally persuasive.
Of the three new San Francisco Ballet "Swan Lake" casts completing the company's engagement at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa over the weekend, Joanna Berman, Saturday evening, achieved probably the most satisfactory balance between the dramatic and technical demands of the two roles.
As Odette, the petite Berman evoked an otherworldly creature, coaxed only slowly into revealing trust, warmth and committed love. As Odile, she was playfully and therefore coldly manipulative without resorting to exaggerated vamping.
Technically, she danced with security, amplitude and polish.
Her partner was Cyril Pierre, a native of France who joined the company this year. Dancing the role for the first time, Pierre was dramatically avid and intense and looked a prince as to the manner born. But his dancing tended to be more roughhewn and vigorous than finished, and he had moments of rough partnering.
Tina LeBlanc danced Friday evening. Even as a vulnerable Odette, she was vivid and kinetic, whipping up the tempo in solo moments in the first lakeside scene. Pliant in the shoulders and upper torso, she always embodied some of the nonstop energy she would reveal as a springy and fiercely triumphant Odile.
Her partner was David Palmer, beautifully proportioned, elegant in the air and arresting in the textbook precision of his landings. Yet he, too, came most alive in the Black Swan pas de deux, and the two made it a real showpiece.
At the Saturday matinee, Katita Waldo danced Odette with repose and fragility--she was perhaps the only adagio dancer of the weekend Odettes--but she had more trouble, technically as well dramatically, in the evil bravura of Odile.
She was partnered by the lanky Benjamin Pierce, a guest artist from American Ballet Theatre. Pierce had an technical ease and uncanny ability to appear suspended in the air, but was dramatically generalized.
On all occasions, Tchaikovsky was well-served in the pit. Denis de Coteau conducted the two evening performances. Emil de Cou took over at the matinee.