Veronika Part's performances of "Swan Lake" have been a spring event at ABT since 2004; Saturday afternoon's show was even more of an event because this was her first ABT "Swan" in two years; last year, she cancelled her performance because she was injured. On Saturday, Marcelo Gomes, her customary Prince Siegfried, was now dancing one of the twin incarnations of sorcerer von Rothbart who populate Kevin McKenzie's production.
This time, Ms. Part's Prince was instead David Hallberg. It was a world-class team and a world-class performance, as well as an international one. Unlike most of the world's major companies, ABT doesn't draw most of its personnel from its own school, but instead takes in graduates of schools from around the world. It's a method that mitigates against the stylistic homogeneity that is often considered the primary goal of a major company, but the unpredictable new interfaces that sometimes happen as a result justify ABT's methods.
This was certainly true on Saturday. Ms. Part's, Mr. Gomes's, and Mr. Hallberg's respective Russian, Brazilian, and American bloodlines, not to mention their own individuality, made for a combustible performance.
Ms. Part's experience in the role pre-dates her ABT debut. She danced her first "Swan Lake" in 1997 with her native Kirov Ballet. There is no substitute for maturity; now, at 30, she's able to slightly redraw the map of her own interpretation with each new performance, while always seeming to be locating the essence of the dual roles of mournful Odette and duplicitous Odile.
Ms. Part's performance is always about the irreducible structural components of classical ballet. She pruned away mannerism as much as is possible or desirable to do an art form that is itself somewhat manneristic. She was technically sound, but her "Swan Lake" was not technical acrobatics; nor was it about realistic drama or animal imitation. She preserves the stylistic imprint of the role without a lot of flapping or pecking. She maintains a rare equilibrium between the linear and sculptural elements of classical ballet.
Ms. Part's Odette's romance with Prince Siegfried and the possibility of redemption all proceed from a melancholy limbo in which she is encased and to which she is resigned. She seemed complete unto herself before her first encounter with Siegfried. As she returned to swan form at the end of the first lakeside scene, her rippling arms assumed a Liebestodian acceptance and tranquility.
As the temptress Odile, Ms. Part left behind the traditions of the Kirov, and perhaps her own innate stylstic inclinations, to perform a Black Swan that was more extroverted and more teasing erotically than she has been in the past. In the coda, she wisely eschews multiple fouetté turns. Instead she sticks to impeccably executed single fouettés — one preparation per turn. They serve just as well, as they have for most of Swan Lake's existence, to delineate the rhythm of the music and of Odile's triumphant deception of the Prince.
Ms. Part and Mr. Hallberg are not at first glance the most organic partnership — she is lush and he is cool, among other disparities. On Saturday, there were some moments when Mr. Hallberg and Ms. Part were not entirely coordinated, but his partnering was always good, and sometimes it was great: when he lifted her in arabesque in the coda of Act 2 (Act 1, scene 2 in this production.)
Ms. Part's Odette in the first lakeside scene was a queen at first reluctant to permit the Prince any undue familiarity. But returning to the lakeside for her final remonstration and reconciliation with Siegfried, Ms. Part's now-betrayed Odette and the now contrite Mr. Hallberg let their relationship turn feverish for the first time. Thus their relationship continued to be unpredictable until their final moments together.
Mr. Gomes and Mr. Hallberg may not have performed their variations as well on Saturday as they had earlier in the week, but they danced impressively indeed. In fact, it was a particularly good day for male virtuosity at ABT, as evidenced as well by Tobin Eason and Joseph Phillips in Mr. McKenzie's Neopolitan Dance in Act 3 and Blaine Hoven in the Act 1 pas de trois.
Until July 12 (Lincoln Center, Columbus Avenue between 62nd and 65th streets, 212-362-6000).