The huge, red curtain was in front of me. Siri Fort auditorium was packed with eager audience. I took my seat quickly as the live performance of Swan Lake by Royal Russian Ballet was about to begin. I was thrilled to witness the most prestigious performances happening in Delhi that’s going to make 23 September 2017, the most memorable day especially for me.
I grew up watching Bollywood dance numbers like all Indians. As a child I used to mimic the dance steps of Michael Jackson and Madhuri Dixit. As soon as I started my dance training with Ashley Lobo’s dance academy - The Danceworx - my perspective towards dance broadened. I started watching a lot of dance videos of international dancers with amazing dance technique. I used to watch ballet videos of this beautiful Russian ballerina, Polina Semionova, and dream of dancing, Swan Lake, as gracefully and with such perfect pointe that will move the audience.
And here I was, now, watching Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake live performance, with such grand stage background, technical perfection of lights and sounds. This very stage of Siri Fort Auditorium where I had performed my first jazz dance as a beginner, now transformed into a beautiful palace. The ballerinas with such nimble, pointed feet in beautiful ballet costumes. The prince amidst the floating ballerina swans so perfect in posture and portraying the character in all its glory.
Years later, after being a student, a dance teacher and a company member, I had joined ballet classes with IFBC. Watching the ballet company members running around in pointe shoes and beautifully crafted tutus was very exciting but I was still not sure if I wanted to do ballet. I kept watching ballet videos with deep sighs every time I saw a ballerina dance. Slowly my interest grew more towards ballet music. I had found a new way of understanding rhythm, musicality and melody in the piano music. Now the dance music was not just about hard hitting or thumping beats. Now music to me was about telling a story when movement flows like water and I loved lyrical dance.
Suddenly as the ballet music changed to next act and I was brought back from my reverie, I saw the white Swan Queen Odette, slowly entering, turning in kuru amidst the subtle, slow smog. So beautiful and graceful was the ballerina’s entry that the audience were mesmerized. The prince and the swan’s pas de deux felt such an idyllic romance. I remembered a ballet tweet - “The ballet makes us look at those bodies, it makes us listen to music, it makes us wonder at the geometry, of the way they come together.”
My ballet teacher, Mr. Patrick Hinson, with whom I had the opportunity to work in a ballet, quoted the famous ballet choreographer and master George Balanchine who had said - “Put a man and a girl on stage and there is already a story; a man and two girls, there’s already a plot.” Classical ballet has seen many changes throughout the years. In India, however, it’s been only few years that the first ballerino of India, Sanjay Khatri and first ballerina of India, Ritika Chandra has opened their own ballet studios in Delhi. Selective dancers, with good financial background, are able to go abroad for further ballet training. And even few who come back and teach ballet. It is still a long way for India to get the best technically trained ballet dancers.
Ballet is very athletic dance but at the same time character portrayal is equally important. The audience knew that the best was yet to come when the next act showed the villain Von Rothbart doing such amazing jete’ and a la second turns. The jumps and suspension of the prince and the villain were at par with each other. The entry of Odile in black swan costume reminded me of my fears when I had watched Hollywood actress Natalie Portman in the movie Black Swan. I wondered if the same ballerina was performing both the white and black swans, just like in the movie.
The magic of the ballet music is in its fluid composition of storytelling and symphony. Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake was the first musical ballet piece to be created by a symphonic composer. In any international ballet company, dancers always have a live pianist in the class and rehearsals. The ballet performances abroad are always performed on live music by a huge orchestra.
As the ballet moved towards its ending, when the vile plot of the villain and his daughter Odile is revealed, everyone in the audience was moved by the love of the Prince and the Swan Queen. The end drew a huge round of applause and I stood up along with the rest of the audience in cheering the dancers.
Swan Lake is a dream ballet which seems like a beautiful magic and the technical mastery is unparalleled. I may or may not become a ballerina but witnessing the Royal Russian Ballet would have definitely made some little girl in the audience dream of becoming a ballerina someday.