"Feathered White and Black" is Valerie Norman and VanDance's reworking of the "Swan Lake" fable in which our feathered friends bob between images of good girls and bad girls.
By SARAH CARLSON
From Petipa to Michael Bourne, "Swan Lake" has been
reincarnated in myriad productions that never fail to
enchant with breathtaking beauty and tragic loss. The
original ballet presents two opposing swan characters,
Odette and Odile, who incarnate good and evil
respectively and who also happen to be danced by the
same ballerina. In her first full evening-length
presentation, Valerie Norman does not attempt to
recreate the famous tale, but uses the Odette/Odile
synthesis as a vehicle to explore the idea of female
dualism. Delightfully entertaining, "Feathered" gets a
little jumbled along the way but ultimately satisfies.
Before the house lights extinguish, the dancers take
the stage in silence, stretching out their graceful
swan-selves in the murky anonymity of pre-show
shadows. Tchaikovsky's famous score then rolls in like
a wave sweeping the dancers into a unison swan
brigade. Gabriella Barnstone, Hannah Emmerich,
Christina May, Tamara Riewe and Ms. Norman combine
their ballet prowess to form an ethereal chorus of
delicate arabesques and wafting porte-de-bras. White
draped fabric and strategically placed feathers by
designer Oana Botez-Ban add stylish flair while
simultaneously acknowledging the classic purity of the
swans. Although satisfyingly proper, this swan prance
we know so well is doomed. Tchaikovsky's score is
soon overcome by an eerie synthesized drone and the
frolicking swans disintegrate into unsteady,
|FEATHERED WHITE AND BLACK|
|Choreography by: Valerie Norman.|
Dancers: Gabriella Barnstone, Hannah Emmerich,
Christina May, Tamara Riewe and Valerie Norman.
Related links: Official site
In the original "Swan Lake," the swans are actually
women who have been cursed by an evil magician to
remain as swans until a man falls in love with Odette
with all his heart and breaks the spell. Without much
effort from the swans, Prince Sigfried comes along,
promptly falls for Odette and vows to save her. In
"Feathered," the swans take charge and transform into
coy showgirls, demurely entreating admiration. Out
come the feathered fans and frisky attitudes.
Pirouettes and bourres become spinning fan formations
a la Busby Berkeley. Odette, played beautifully by
Gabriella Barnstone, is initially dismayed when the
swans decide to further breakout and go to a local
disco. Her unexplained disapproval is short-lived,
however, and later abandoned altogether when she
throws herself full swan-swing onto the disco floor.
Ms. Norman boldly embellishes her snowy swans with
spinning lights and sex appeal. No longer so pure,
the swans disco 'til dawn in active pursuit of the love
that will save them. A love, I should mention, that
In Act Two, we meet Odile, black, luxurious, striking.
She arrives with a full entourage of call girls
bedecked in black lace and fishnets. Unabashedly
seductive, the black swans slink and slide around
Odile showing her off like the next big prize on "The
Price Is Right." Odile is sexy, confident and in
control until she wrestles a chair (read: lover) and
gets a bit trampled. "It's really about power for
me," said Ms. Norman in conversation after the show,
"and how power becomes our nemesis."
| ||"It's really about power for
me, and how power becomes our nemesis."|
| || Valerie Norman|
cigarettes and violence culminate in a flamboyant
finish. Without quite understanding her logic, we
watch Odile stab the others and then herself in a
desperate act. Later, we understand that Odile has
found another way to break the magician's spell, a
curse that has become a greater metaphor for female
oppression. The dancers emerge, stripped of both
feathers and fishnets. Neither black nor white, they
advance nakedly forward to discover their true selves.
Though at times mysterious, Ms. Norman's story arc is
filled with potential. Comedic and fun, she weaves a
quirky fabric of myth and social commentary. Ms.
Norman cracks apart elements of an age-old classic
and reassembles them with wit and absurdity. The
resulting entity might not be fully functional, but it
is definitely fascinating to behold.
|JANUARY 13, 2003|
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