Friday, April 10, 2009


We loved Swan Lake at the McCarter. It was the Russian National Ballet Theatre. The music was prerecorded, of course, but what can you do. It was a good recording of a first-rate orchestral performance. In spots, Tchaikovsky's music is so beautiful it takes your breath away--elsewhere he sounds like a Russian Tin Pan Alley composer, cranking out short, completely forgettable numbers. But like everyone else, I was focused on the beautiful.

In the lead role of Odette/Odile, Marianna Chemalina was just exquisite. I know very little about dance, but it seemed clear she had an ability that towered above most of the others onstage. Fascinating to me was the degree of acting involved: Chemalina plays both the shy, guileless, adorable swan/woman, Odette, and her evil twin, the enchantress Odile. As she changed characters everything about Chemalina's attitude changed, including facial expressions (I didn't think there were facial expressions in ballet. Shows you how much I know.) She became pure evil, condescending to everyone around her. Remarkable, given the physical demands of the ballet moves themselves. All this is I'm sure patently obvious to those (like my niece, the writer Jonelle Seitz) who are professionals in the dance world. But I'm a complete novice so it's all wonderful and strange.

The blossoms were out on the trees in downtown Princeton. My daughter and I ate at the nice Japanese place on Witherspoon, across from the public library. After the performance, we had blend-ins at Thomas Sweets on Nassau. A terrific evening.


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