Oregon Ballet Theatre

June 9, 2006

Yuka Iino and Ruben Martin in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s production of Christopher Stowell’s
Swan Lake.
Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert, courtesy OBT

Oregon Ballet Theatre
Keller Auditorium, Portland, OR

June 9–11, 2006

Reviewed by Heather Wisner


There were plenty of thrills and a few chills when Oregon Ballet Theatre staged its first-ever full-length production of Swan Lake as the grand finale to its 2005–2006 season. Guided by Christopher Stowell, the former San Francisco Ballet principal who assumed artistic directorship of OBT in the 2003–2004 season, the company jumped feet first into the lake. Drawing from the traditional Petipa/Ivanov staging and his own experience as a Balanchine-schooled classical interpreter, Stowell presented a production that sparkled.

There was much to savor, beginning with a live orchestra conducted with verve by Niel DePonte. A turreted stone castle looming against a stormy sky provided the backdrop, and a courtier’s entrance with a borzoi hound set the royal tone. OBT’s women, dressed in muted pastels, made the corps divertissements light, airy, and lyrical; the men showed great ballon, and batterie from both sides was deliciously crisp and well timed.

The smartly drilled corps made a bright party for the principals: Stowell’s SFB cohort, principal Ruben Martin, made a guest appearance as Siegfried opposite Yuka Iino’s Odette/Odile (alternating with Alison Roper). The initial meeting of Martin’s mild-mannered youth and Iino’s quavery bird didn’t generate sparks so much as mutual curiosity. With beautifully fluttering port de bras and birdlike twitches of the head, Iino ebbed and flowed from Siegfried. Martin, the most gallant of partners in Act II, all but disappeared behind Iino as she warmed to his touch.

The evening’s chills came courtesy of Rothbart, skulkingly played by a bald-headed Paul De Strooper and his costume; his sweeping velvet cape arrived onstage just before he did. An enormous silver medallion gave him the slightly seedy air of an aging rock star, but there was a ripple of delighted shock when, in Act III, he whipped off a black veil to reveal Odile’s face and his own malice. Iino grew better as the night wore on, more comfortably inhabiting her dual roles with a coy, vampish Odile and a genuinely anguished Odette, who lingered just slightly before disappearing for good into the forest. See www.obt.org.