Ballet leads the way this festive season

It is not unusual for ballet to take the lead during the festive season. This week, Christmas can be celebrated at the Athens Concert Hall, where dance stars Diana Vysheva, Vladimir Malakhov, Paulina Semionova and Artem Spilevsky perform ballet favorite «Swan Lake,» accompanied by the Kiev National Opera’s corps de ballet (performances begin this Thursday and then run from Christmas Day to December 30). What eventually turned into an all-time classic began as a rather unsuccessful work by a relatively unknown choreographer in 1877. By 1895, however, based on choreography by Marius Pepita and Lev Ivanov and set to music by Piotr Ilych Tchaikoskvy, «Swan Lake» had developed into a point of reference. That was more than a century ago, yet «Swan Lake» is still the single most popular ballet in the classical repertoire, featuring numerous choreographies and variations, both classical and contemporary. Part of its success has to do with Tchaikovsky’s score, a genuine musical script upon which the story of the young, bewitched women turning into swans was based. The ballet belongs to the classical tradition, as opposed to the romantic one – the latter includes works such as «Giselle» and «Sleeping Beauty.» At the Athens Concert Hall, choreographer Leonidas De Pian has kept Ivanov’s masterful, second-act choreography intact. The first, third and fourth acts, however, were developed for the Athens production. «Swan Lake» is also on stage at the Coronet Theater. Performed by the Ballet of the State Opera of Odessa, shows run to January 5, 2005. The soloists here are Margarita Camis and Andrei Litvinov. Drawing on Pepita and Ivanov’s work, the production’s choreography was developed by Vladimir Troshchenko, the company’s principal choreographer. Margarita Camis, who takes on the double role of shy Odette and ruthless Odile, is a graduate of the Ballet Academy of Kisinev with work experience at the Bolshoi Theater. Interpreting the role of Prince Siegfried, Andrei Litvinov graduated from Moscow’s Dance Academy and is a permanent member of the Ballet of the State Opera of Odessa. «Magical Christmas with the St Petersburg Ballet» is the title of a dance performance by the St Petersburg Imperial School of Classical Ballet at the Athinais Cultural Complex (the troupe’s limited performances begin tomorrow). A specially orchestrated dance production taking the form of a Christmas fairy tale, it is interpreted by 20 dancers and includes impressive excerpts for soloists and corps du ballet members from a number of well-known works such as «Sleeping Beauty,» «Swan Lake,» «The Nutcracker,» «Giselle» and «Chopiana» along with contemporary choreographies such as «Matreshki,» and «Freski» among others. Every weekend until the end of February, the Halandri Arts Center presents «Wheelchair Dancer,» the tender story of a 15-year-old girl using a wheelchair, who wishes to become a member of a dance troupe. The production, which opened during the Athens Paralympics, was written by Sarah Froeber with music by Mike Hamer. Meanwhile, the National Opera presents «The Snow Queen,» a ballet based on the music of Alexander Glazunov. A charming fairy tale enjoyed by children and adults alike, it is a two-act neoclassical, romantic ballet based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, featuring selected works by Glazunov. The ballet, which opened in Greece for the first time last night, will be repeated tomorrow, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with additional performances on January 5, 6, 8, 22 and 23. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333; Coronet Theater, tel 210.701.2123; Athinais Cultural Complex, Kastorias 34, tel 210.348.0000; Halandri Arts Center, 53 Garyttou, Halandri, tel 210.639.3341; National Opera’s Olympia Theater, 59-61 Academias, tel 210.364.3700.