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Flash Flashback, 5-10: A Review
Cisneros's Swan Song

(Editor's Note: The Dance Insider has been revisiting its Flash Archive. The first review ever published by the Dance Insider -- in our Summer 1998 debut print issue -- this article is today posted online for the first time. Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is currently ballet education coordinator for San Francisco Ballet.)

By Aimee Ts'ao
Copyright 1998, 2006 Aimee Ts'ao

SAN FRANCISCO -- A wise dancer knows when it's time to retire -- at her peak. Evelyn Cisneros, who will retire after next season, is doing this, to judge by her final "Swan Lake" May 9 with the San Francisco Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House. Always a dramatic dancer, Cisneros showed that she has matured tremendously as an artist since she created Odette/Odile in Helgi Tomasson's staging ten years ago. She more than succeeded in showing the triumph of love over evil, not an easy task in our cynical high-tech era.

Partnered by Stephen Legate, Cisneros steadily built her portrayal of the White Swan through Act II, from a frightened maiden to a woman in love believing that she will finally be released from the curse of von Rothbart. The hesitations and doubts slowly gave way to surrender. Particularly noteworthy was the way she used her hands in touching the Prince, sometimes drawing her fingers away quickly in fear, at other times letting them linger as she explored her feelings for him.

Cisneros did not play the Black Swan as a gloating femme fatale. How Siegfried could have mistaken Odile for his betrothed is often hard to believe when she seethes with seductive wiles, but Cisneros danced with a sunny exuberance which snared him instantly. Only in her consultations with von Rothbart did she reveal her wicked side.

Act IV was the most moving. In confronting the Prince, Cisneros revealed Odette's pain and confusion. As he asked for her forgiveness, she showed both her understanding of the situation and her own mixed feelings, which resolved into her accepting him back. Their dancing was pure bliss -- nothing could touch them. Von Rothbart, weakened by the power of their love, writhed and sank to the floor. This transcendent love did conquer all.

Cisneros's ability to layer emotions, playing not just one mood or feeling at a time, was indicative of her artistic growth. How satisfying to see that she never stopped exploring and developing a role right up through her last performance.


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