Grand Rapids Ballet’s “Black & White: Swan Lake” returns to the stage at Peter Martin Wege Theater February 10-12, 2017. Here’s the MLive review of the premiere that was originally published in May of 2012…

Swan Lake Grand Rapids Ballet

Laura and Nicholas Schultz as Odette and Siegfried in the Grand Rapids Ballet’s premier of “Black Swan White Swan,” a variation of the classic ballet “Swan Lake.”
(Chris Clark |

By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk for (May 11, 2012)

4 stars of 4

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Great art is great, in part, because, whether it’s Shakespeare’s plays or Beethoven’s symphonies, it can be created new again.

Natalie Portman, in the film “Black Swan,” is set against rehearsals for “Swan Lake.” Music from Tchaikovsky’s score is part of the 2010 film, but the tale of Von Rothbart, the sorcerer, is not told in Darren Aronofsky’s film.

Grand Rapids Ballet Company’s new production of “Black & White: Swan Lake” re-imagines it yet again to cap the company’s 40th anniversary season with an artistic accomplishment of the highest order. Startling special effects surround amazing choreography in the show.

Choreographer Mario Radacovsky’s new production – beguiling, captivating, ultimately enigmatic — is not a retelling of the story of Princess Odette, the White Swan; or of Von Rothburt’s daughter, Odile, the Black Swan.

GRBC’s production, which opened last weekend in its Wege Theatre, is the story of Siegfried and his journey of discovery, both in the real world as well as in the realm of his imagination, aided, abetted by Von Rothbart.

The most important duets, in fact, are those between Siegfried and Von Rothbart, as his Mephistophelean manipulator, and by Von Rothbart, as Siegfried looking inside himself, at his alter ego, mirroring his actions, sharing his coats, engaging in frequent combat.

Radacovsky’s tale is one for the 21st century, with a dance vocabulary to match. It’s classical dance, yes, but not at all classical ballet with women on pointe. Dancers all were in dance shoes or barefoot.

Manipulations of the spine, legs spread far apart, toes pointing at 90 degree angles to the leg were some of the unfamiliar, and even uncomfortable moves Radacovsky employed, to say nothing of any number of gestures to suggest swans in motion.

Four strong dancers, with strong characterizations to match, tell the 80-minute story to most of Tchaikovsky’s much loved, pre-recorded score to “Swan Lake.”

Friday’s cast, to open its second weekend of three performances, included Nicholas Schultz as Siegfried, Kyohei Giovanni Yoshida as von Rothbart, Laura McQueen Schultz as the White Swan, Dawnell Dryja as the Black Swan.

Schultz, a fine leading man, has developed the tools to grow a character in the short space of a show as well as the strength and stamina to partner so many people so much of the time.

Yoshida, an exciting dancer always, gave Von Rothbart a cunning, commanding presence, with some spectacular moves, but riveting even when he moved with catlike stealth.

McQueen Schultz danced a graceful, White Swan, partnered often off the floor, frequently in surprising lifts and carries, suggesting her sad, remote distance.

Dryja, as the Black Swan, was a sexy, magnetic personality with a touch of femme fatale. Her solo variation had energy crackling at the tips of her fingers and toes. The trust between her and Schultz when paired together is unmatched.

Radacovsky’s party scene, establishing the normalcy of Siegfried’s world, was witty and gay with five couples dancing the world’s oldest game.

No fewer than 14 swans, matching white outfits with loose, flowing hair, were a strong corps de ballet with willowy gestures often in perfect unison.

As Shakespeare’s plays profit from modern lighting and Beethoven’s piano concertos feature modern instruments, Radacovsky’s 21st century version of a 19th century ballet benefited greatly from set and lighting design by Marek Holly and projection design by Michael Auer.

Mirrored drops reflected the action and provide subtle entrances and exits. Pools of light served as accent lighting as well as destinations marking turning points in the tale.

Best of all were breathtaking projections transforming the Wege Theatre into the semblance of a lake itself. A surprising special effect at the end sealed the deal.

Grand Rapids Ballet Company’s 40th season ends on a high note, though two more chances remain to see “Black Swan White Swan.”

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