Some dance performances are so phenomenal that it requires time to fully appreciate them. On Saturday July 2, I took my usual balcony seat at the ABT. For weeks I had anticipated Semionova in this performance of Swan Lake. Earlier in the season I had seen her paired with David Hallberg in Don Quijote. It had been a stellar performance, but the two were missing chemistry, which cannot be invented. Chemistry is either present or not. For this performance of Swan Lake, Semionova was scheduled to dance again with Hallberg, and so it was with a certain amount of relief that I opened my program to read that Marcelo Gomes would replace Hallberg in this performance. Hallberg is an elegantly beautiful dancer, and might well be paired with the graceful Cojocaru. But Semionova requires the passion and sheer physicality of Gomes.
The magnetism between the two was apparent the moment they stepped on stage together. Semionova portrayed a heartachingly vulnerable Odette, draping herself in a fluid backbend over Gomes' strong arms. She shone as Odile, performing the grueling 32 fouettes with flawless precision, showing off her prowess with double revolutions during the first five fouettes. Gomes confidently matched her stamina, and allowed her to steal the show. He epitomized the gentlemanly manner of the male ballet dancer, who becomes ennobled by supporting the ballerina and allowing her beauty to shine. The emotion between the two carried the audience on a wave exhilaration until the final denouement, when Gomes leapt heart and soul after Semionova. It was the grandest stage fall I have ever seen. Gomes flung his chest out with all his might. His legs kicked forcefully behind. In the drama of that fall, he made the audience believe that there exists a love so profound that it can lead a man to the ends of the earth.
More followed. The drab, unsatisfying ending in which Odette and Prince Siegfried stand separate but united, side by side in the dawn of the afterlife, was no more. Instead, Semionova and Gomes embraced. It was the perfect ending to a perfect performance by a perfect pair.
At the curtain call, Semionova and Gomes smiled with obvious joy about dancing together. Semionova accepted with grace the customary bouquet of roses (at the end of a ballet performance, the principal ballerina always receives a rose bouquet, but the male lead receives none; the ballerina usually extracts one rose, kisses it, curtsies and hands the rose to her male lead). Then Semionova broke rank and offered her bouquet to Gomes, who refused with barely concealed embarrassment. Semionova tried several times to give Gomes the flowers, then outrightly placed the bouquet in his arms. With school boy charm, Gomes bowed to her and placed the bouquet at her feet. A few curtain calls later, Semionova and Gomes embraced warmly and kissed on the lips. If you didn't know better, you'd have sworn they were lovers. Which is exactly how you should walk away from a performance of Swan Lake: believing that love can be strong enough to conquer the spells of an evil sorcerer.