Het Musiktheater, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; September 27 & 28, 2014

Maggie Foyer

Swan Lake (03). Igone de Jongh and Vito Mazzeo in Rudi van Dantzig's Swan Lake.  Photo © Angela Sterling

Igone de Jongh and Vito Mazzeo in Rudi van Dantzig’s ‘Swan Lake’.
Photo © Angela Sterling

Sunday matinee on a glorious late summer day in Amsterdam saw one of those performances made in heaven. Anna Tsygankova and Jozef Varga in “Swan Lake” brought Rudi van Dantzig’s lengthy version into sharp focus, melding the aesthetic and the dramatic in a tour de force.

Siberian ballerina, Tsygankova, one of the most musical of dancers, has the qualities of a great Odette. Her arms are exquisite; always alive and quivering, her feet dovetail into perfect fifths and her arabesque carries the sensation of flight. She is the embodiment of the Swan Queen, hovering between regal woman and wild bird, and totally captivating.

Varga’s Siegfried frustrated by the strictures of the court, finds in her the embodiment of all his ideals and in their pas de deux they find the depths of feeling and heights of passion that Tchaikovsky’s music deserves, but seldom gets.

Van Dantzig’s version, magnificently designed by Toer van Schayk, is distinctive in its clear definition of the characters. The Prince is prominent in Act I, joining in the dance with both court and peasants. Together with his friend Alexander, Siegfried searches for a more idealistic lifestyle away from the affairs of state which his tutor, van Rasposen, a powerful manipulator, plans for him. Linked by their names and brooding presence in diverse acts, van Rasposen and von Rothbart share something of the same persona.

In the third act, von Rothbart dressed in high fashion although with Gothic pallor, masterminds the show. The national dances, choreographed by van Schayk, a virtuoso pas de six (set to the music Frederick Ashton used for his first act pas de quatre) and the Mazurka, now a show-stopping finale, all add up to a dazzling, if lengthy, entertainment. It provides a strong overture to the Black Swan pas de deux compelling the principals to pull out all the stops. When they do, as in this performance, it all works so well.

Van Dantzig carries the human dimension through by giving each of the prospective brides an individual personality making this, often insipid, section alive with humour. The central Spanish lady, whose role suggests an intimate relationship to Von Rothbart, has a moment of coquetry exciting the affections of van Rasposen and deepening the complexity of the characters. The Queen Mother, a strong performance from Jeanette Vondersaar, remains suspicious of the uninvited guests significantly increasing the dramatic tension in the ballroom.

As Odile, Tsgankova enters in triumph and never for a moment drops her guard. In her dance with a consort of six masked men, every move has Siegfried as its focus. In the grand pas she winds him tighter in her web, enticing, rejecting and seducing by turns. Varga is left in a miasma of enchantment, before being spurred, by von Rothbart’s violin cadenza, into a dazzling solo of sheer exuberance. Tsygankova’s solo by contrast was a cool display of power, rising to thrilling virtuosity in the coda and sealing the pact. She accepts his ring but in a tantalising prolongation, draws him into a gentle wedding waltz before the final denouement. Siegfried’s despair is absolute.

A long lyrical duet in Act IV reunites the lovers and seals their fate. Siegfried cannot save Odette as she transforms back to a swan and, in despair, he drowns himself.

Igone de Jongh in Rudi van Dantzig's 'Swan Lake'.  Photo © Angela Sterling

Igone de Jongh in ‘Swan Lake’.
Photo © Angela Sterling

Alexander, played in this performance by Edo Wijnen, in a sincere and well-judged performance, is entrusted with the sad duty of carrying the body of the dead Prince from the waves. Wijnen, thankfully, also gets the opportunity to display his dancing talent. In Act I he is teamed with Michaela DePrince and Aya Okumura in a sparkling pas de trois, musically synchronised and crisply performed.

The ensemble, notably the flock of swans, maintained the company’s usual high standard. While keeping lines and positions exact, they conveyed the drama and the sorrow.

The “Swan Lake” on the previous evening should also have been exceptional. However Igone de Jongh and Vito Mazzeo, impeccably matched in clarity of technique and physique, didn’t manage to set the stage alight. In a role that puts such store on aesthetics: the gentle curve of the neck, the hyperextension of legs and the graceful sweep of arms, all of which De Jongh possesses, the parts did not add up to the whole. Mazzeo invested the Prince with a good measure of passion but it takes two to tango (or waltz) and there was little reciprocal echo.

However there were highlights: Wen Ting Guan as one of the Big Swans displayed a glorious generosity in her movements while Megan Zimny Kaftira and Naira Agvanean, danced with precision and grace in a very stylish pas de trois. Sébastien Galtier’s chilling von Rothbart and Young Gyu Choi’s brilliant virtuosity in the pas de six were also memorable.