11-17 July 2014 #715

Swoon lake

Kathmandu based dance group Anzel crew’s rendition of the Russian classic has rough edges

There is waltz, lots of contemporary dance forms, but very little ballet in Kathmandu based dance group Anzel Crew’s rendition of the Russian classic, Swan Lake, which opened this week at Mandala Theatre.

The result is a goulash of gyrations that distract from the performance, as do the technical glitches and the excess of acts in this 50 minute show. First premiered in Moscow in 1877, Swan Lake has taken 140 years to arrive in Kathmandu, and keeps to the original theme of extreme contrasts: black and white, good and evil, the idea of faithful love with a twist of a love triangle.

This production, directed by Nandita Kc and choreographed by Anzel crew casts Odette as the innocent and dainty swan queen who is torn between her feelings for two prince brothers--the Black Swan and the White Swan. As characterised by their colours, the black swan, the younger of the two, is ambitious and arrogant while his elder brother’s gentle and kind nature makes him the more beloved one. The queen tiptoes between them as she tries to figure out exactly who she truly loves. Since this is the world’s most famous ballet, you already know the tragic ending.

At the press conference before the play’s premiere, co-director Mohammad Nazir Hussain, who also plays the Black Swan, said he attempted to show the intimate relationship between dance and drama. Unfortunately, the team falls short largely because of poorly choreographed routines -- the strong point of the original.

From the opening act, where the narrator performs a monologue of love proses, surrounded by the corps de ballet (only called that  because they are in tutus) the dance routines are clumsy, uncoordinated and lack finesse. These ballerinas don’t even stand on their toes, and attempts at a pirouette were almost comical. One could argue that Swan Lake performed in a Himalayan hinterland will never match the original, but if the dancers can’t do ballet why choose to stage a ballet?

As is the case with our films and television, it seems even Nepali theatre like to turn on the decibel level. Yes, theatre calls for theatrics but you don’t have to bust ear drums. When a director undermines an audiences’ intelligence, and feels the need to spell out everything, such as the use of a narrator in this performance, the audience is left with little to do.  The narrator, who erupts onto the stage almost every five minutes, dramatically elocutes paragraphs of prose and ends up irritating the viewer. The scene where she breaks down into an almost psychotic rant is perhaps when the play hits its nadir. You can’t inject Bollywood theatrics into a Swan Lake production in Kathmandu.

But all is not lost. In between the cringeworthy moments, the scene when the queen meets the Black Swan for the first passionate time is well executed. The Black Swan’s aggression and his desire to be with the lovely princess comes through with his stern stances and emotive eyes. The waltz between the White Swan and the queen is another beautiful moment. As the two glide across the stage, for a brief moment, the audience gets a fleeting glimpse of their characters.

Tsering Dolker Gurung 

Runs until 16 July, show starts at 5.15pm (closed on Mondays)

Rs 200, Rs 100 (students)

Mandala Theatre, Anamnagar

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