DANCE REVIEW : ABT Uses Leftovers for ‘Swan Lake’ : Costa Mesa performance resurrects dear, dreary scenery and choreography from 1967.


With enormous fanfare and flash, American Ballet Theatre unveiled Mikhail Baryshnikov’s $1.5-million production of “Swan Lake” at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa in December, 1988. For better or worse, it promised to be the production of the company’s future.

Short-term future, as it turned out.

Baryshnikov left ABT abruptly in 1989 after a bitter managerial dispute. He took his choreography for this and other ballets with him but left behind, according to an ABT spokesman, the purplish forest and ruined lakeside castle designed by PierLuigi Samaritani.

For Thursday’s three-part program that included Act II of the ballet, however, current ABT management rejected these leftovers, preferring instead to resurrect the dear, dreary, older leftovers from 1967--scenery by Oliver Smith and choreography by David Blair, after Ivanov.

Georgina Parkinson, the wicked-witch stepmother in Agnes de Mille’s “Fall River Legend,” danced the two previous evenings, received credit for overseeing the staging. It incorporates more mime than in the Misha version, ensures that Ivanov’s symmetries are not blocked by Samaritani’s columns but contains a few howlers of its own, notably the dreadful costumes for the retinue and Von Rothbart).

Surviving from the Baryshnikov era, fortunately, remain the impressive gains of the Swan corps. Unified in discipline and impulse, if not ideally soft and lush, they have now the technical security upon which to build.


With her seemingly frail and fragile physique, Amanda McKerrow danced Odette with an aching vulnerability but with startling power and control.

Wes Chapman, her Prince, made the most of limited opportunities in the act, offering modest, courtly demeanor and partnering with strength and nuance.

Charles Barker conducted the Pacific Symphony with more propulsion than lyric expansiveness.

Mark Morris’ “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes” and another repeat of Kylian’s “Sinfonietta” completed the program.

Morris’ musical response to Virgil Thomson’s quirky, clever and touching Etudes for Piano again released irresistible company talents. In the virtuoso role created for Baryshnikov (the tango “Parallel Chords”), Danilo Radojevic showed his customary exemplary control of shape and impulse in the difficult series of turns and drops to the knee. John Selya later proved an adept canonic partner.

Pianist Gladys Celeste played the 13 Thomson pieces with spirit and suavity.

A largely new cast essayed the endless flying leaps and bounds in “Sinfonietta” with gusto and vigor, but also with imprecision. Jack Everly again led the orchestra in Janacek’s music.