Not the least of the many charms of the Paris Opera Ballet is the individuality of its dancers. Four ballerinas have danced the part of Odette-Odile in Rudolf Nureyev's production of "Swan Lake," which has been the sole ballet presented during its current Kennedy Center engagement, and each has been completely different in style, personality and approach. In her Washington debut at Sunday afternoon's performance, Isabelle Guerin brought a special glamor to the role, as well as a healthy dose of sex appeal.
In the lyrical "white" acts, Guerin's dancing was elegant, her acting passionate, and her mime had a lovely, singing quality. It helped that her partner was Charles Jude, by far the best of the company's Princes on view in Washington. The pair was particularly poignant in the last act's pas de deux of despair and parting that is one of Nureyev's contributions to the choreography.
In the "black" act Guerin was an evil, but happy, seductress, who reveled in her role and its steps. Like the other ballerinas who have danced Odile here, she managed to create a woman different from, but strongly reminiscent of, Odette. That is, of course, the point, but it's a subtlety not often attempted.
As Baron von Rothbart, Nureyev had toned down his portrayal considerably from opening night, his acting more in scale with the rest of the production and his role in it. His best dancing of the season came in his third-act solo; the turning jumps, in particular, had some of their old fire. Elisabeth Maurin, Fabienne Cerutti and Manuel Legris gave the first-act pas de trois a sunny brilliance.
On Thursday evening and again Saturday afternoon, Jean-Yves Lormeau danced Siegfried, first with Sylvie Guillem, then with Elisabeth Platel. With his long curls and self-satisfied, lackadaisical style, he looked better with the equally unconventional Guillem, but unlike Guillem, his individuality added nothing to the role. Like the Kirov's Evgeny Neff, Lormeau is the kind of dancer whose status must be taken on faith. One must assume that his home country sees something in him, and that he is simply dancing in a different language.
For the record, it should be noted that the company recovered admirably from its interrupted Saturday evening performance to put on a hell of a show. Nothing quite breaks the mood of the second act of "Swan Lake" like a bomb scare, and it must be terribly difficult to dance after sitting outside, in costume, for more than an hour and a half, but the dancers managed it, dashing on for the third act's character dances as though nothing had happened. (Management decided not to try to pick up the action where the interruption had occurred, so the second act was never finished.)
The principals (Florence Clerc and Nureyev) had to dance the Black Swan pas de deux cold, as it were -- Nureyev, in particular, danced as though he felt he personally had to make the inconvenience up to the audience. Even harder was their task of putting over a story that had been cut at a crucial point. The audience, polite through the whole ordeal, pretended not to notice, and was rewarded with the missed second-act White Swan pas de deux danced in the fourth act. Clerc, forced to turn a falling-in-love dance into a I'm-going-to-die-but-I-forgive-you dance, improvised as she went along. Since this "Swan Lake" all happens in the Prince's head, though, the order of the dances really doesn't matter. It's only a dream.