No ballet company can hope to master "Swan Lake" in a weekend, particularly a largely student group with few opportunities to perform. At present the Virginia Ballet's production of the second act of "Swan Lake," unveiled Saturday night at the W.T. Woodson High School Auditorium, is of interest to family and friends only. But if the company were allowed to keep the ballet in repertory and perform it often, it might well produce something fine.
The somewhat simplified production, staged by Paula Tennyson and Tania Rouseau, attempts nothing revolutionary, which is to its credit. It is a sound staging, well-coached -- the dancers look as though they understand the story and don't feel self-conscious playing swans. The major problem was the taped Tchaikovsky score, played at such an excruciatingly slow tempo that the dancers had to take a step, hold it for several counts, walk into the next step and repeat the process. As a result, they appeared to be dancing in slow motion through jello.
As the Swan Queen, Bonnie Blunk showed a remarkable maturity in her presentation and upper body fluidity. The tempo deprived her dancing of impetus except in her second solo, where she showed quick beats and fleet footwork.
The rest of the program was designed to show off as many dancers as possible and did so very nicely. Other classical excerpts were a four-woman version of the grand pas de dix from "Raymonda," also staged by Tennyson and danced crisply and stylishly by its small cast, which worked rather better than Tennyson's three-person version of the peasant pas de deux from "Giselle."
Home-grown choreography was by one of the swans, Maria Cerva, whose "The Tango" provided the company a chance to look sophisticated and dance in heels and whose "Valse Melancholique" gave it a large-cast program closer. Cerva showed a talent for drawing out the dancers and got a particularily fine performance from Matt Johnson in "The Tango."
Her ballets are not without promise. Going against current trends, "Valse Melancholique," set to glued-together bits of various Tchaikovsky works, is classical in style, with lots of leg and footwork. She's not afraid to let her dancers walk and look gracious, she listens to the pulse of the music, and she handled the finale -- the waltz from "Eugene Onegin," which continually builds and falls and has several false endings -- with skill. Elizabeth Joyce, a delicate dancer with a lovely jump, was the heroine.