When Mikko Nissinen became artistic director of Boston Ballet nearly three years ago, he was already talking about a Cuban ballerina named Lorna Feijoo, who, with her husband and fellow dancer Nelson Madrigal, finally joined the company last fall.
Saturday night's "Swan Lake" showed why Nissinen wanted to lure them here. Dancing the leading roles, the couple triumphed. Their complete trust in each other showed as Feijoo flew into Madrigal's arms from a breathtaking distance, without a smidgen of the hesitation she might've shown with a less familiar partner.
As Siegfried, Madrigal started confident and slowly slipped into introspection. His first act dancing displayed a luscious, long line. As Von Rothbart, Sabi Varga was dark and magnetic. Nissinen's take on "Swan Lake's" villain gives you a sense of what might've happened before the beginning of the ballet, how easy it might've been for those swan-maidens to fall under the spell of so glamorous and charming a figure. Nissinen makes Von Rothbart into a sort of cult leader. On her first entrance as the swan queen Odette, Feijoo shot out of the wings, making you feel the air around her. Her dancing had a trembling suspense, poised somewhere between regal bird and earthly princess. Every step meant something. She allowed herself to lapse into languor in Siegfried's arms, then became frantic in the faster-than-fast entrechat quatre pas sequence that turned into a wild effort to escape Von Rothbart's enchantment.
As the evil Odile, she demonstrated that what matters in the fouette turns that are the third act's signature isn't just getting through them, but giving them clarity and purpose. In each one her working leg formed a perfect triangle that whipped out sideways at the end, as if Feijoo were whipping up her determination to win Siegfried.
Finally, in the fourth act, Madrigal lifted Feijoo -- the "good" swan once more -- high in the air, while she maintained the still pose of a floating swan. She became so spiritually potent -- like a shrine carried in a processional -- that her mere presence defeated Von Rothbart.
Feijoo and Madrigal didn't come across as imported stars plunked into the production, but as the brightest lights in a galaxy populated by corps and soloists worthy of their company. The corps moved as a single entity, and the soloists were vibrant, especially Joel Prouty, Melanie Atkins, and Rie Ichikawa in the first act pas de trois. Atkins has the kind of buoyant jump you're born with.
Saturday evening, audiences will get two Feijoos for the price of one, as Lorna's sister Lorena makes a guest appearance with Boston Ballet. Lorena, a principal with San Francisco Ballet, will dance Odile to Lorna's Odette; the sister act alone is enough to pique any balletomane's curiosity.
Performed by the Boston Ballet
At: theWang Theatre, Saturday night
(repeats tonight through Sunday)
Casting of the roles of Odette/Odile, Siegfried,and Von Rothbart: Larissa Ponomarenko, Yury Yanowsky, and Pavel Gurevich tonight; Sarah Lamb, Gure- vich, and Viktor Plotnikov tomorrow; Lorna Feijoo, Nelson Madrigal, and Sabi Varga on Thursday; Romi Beppu, Mindaugas Bauzys, and Plotnikov on Friday; Ponomarenko, Yanowsky, and Gurevich at the Saturday matinee; Lorna and Lorena Feijoo, Madrigal, and Varga Saturday evening; Ponomarenko, Yanowsky, and Gurevich at the Sunday matinee.