The Houston Ballet 3

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Sara Webb is truly, truly as stunning dancer.

June 5 , 2014 — When you purchase a ticket to see Swan Lake, I don’t care who you are or what scale production you are attending, you want to see three things: touching romance, beautiful costumes and beautiful dancers. The Houston Ballet hits a high note for all three, and the result is an evening well spent.

The characters in Swan Lake what really bring the ballet to life. From the petulant prince, the graceful swans and the very creepy Rothbart, the tapestry of characterization is rich:

As Odette, Sara Webb is not a human being. She is made of air and small particles of ephemeral meringue that coalesce into a dancer’s form somewhere, fractions of an inch, above the stage. She is never lifted by her partner, but rather coaxed down by either some sort of stage magic or physical forces of cohesion that are a consequence of her weightless form arriving in contact with her partner’s. The first pas de deux danced in the forest is sweet and memorable.

The romance is immediately apparent between Odette and the prince, danced by Connor Walsh, and it took me a moment to figure out why. It wasn’t the graceful choreography, or the dazzling aforementioned lifts, but rather the sweetness of the gentle touch between the two dancers. I never knew that ballet dancers could be such graceful actors, as is even more apparent by the “conversations” that take place. You don’t really need to read the program to know what’s going on.

As Odile Sara Webb is a different dancer. She is she is sharp and grounded. Her limbs divide air. This is a different character that calls for a different application of the dance, and she does it does it beautifully.

James Gotesky’s Rothbart is creepy. Although the dancer’s skill leaves nothing wanting, the costume and quick, awkward choreographed gestures kept the little girl sitting a row up from us squirming whenever he took the stage. Although his costume is reminiscent of a proud cock, his character is more like an oversized fox in the henhouse. With his equally talented (and creepy minions), he imparts an uneasy mood on the audience. Watch for his swift and abrupt departure from the ballroom in the Third Act. I gasped, and you will too.

The group swan sequences are quintessentially balletic, and probably the main draw for all little girls who want to grow up to be ballerinas. This is an overabundance of white feathers, gently glimmering jewels and oh so graceful ballerinas. The purpose of the tutu makes itself known, as you watch the gravity defying legs and feet float in a well textured ensemble. In the court scenes where the women don longer, flowy dresses you feel deprived.

The closing act has all the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, with a little more drama and flair. I won’t spoil the show if you aren’t familiar with the story line, but even if you are, the delicacy and balletic violence of the semi-final sequence may put a little ache in your heart.

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