Swan Lake is without question one of the great Romantic ballets in the ballet repertoire. It has endured for over 130 years! The music was originally produced by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1876 and choreographed by Julius Reisinger in 1877. In 1894, the famous choreographer Marius Petipa choreographed Acts I and III, while his assistant, Lev Ivanov, choreographed Acts II and IV and created an entirely new ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s work. This version of Swan Lake premiered in 1895 in St. Petersburg (Russia) and was hailed a masterpiece.
The story of Swan Lake is woven around Odette and Odile—two girls who resemble each other so closely, they could be mistaken for each other. Sometimes, the roles are performed by the same dancer.
Swan Lake opens in a splendid park; Prince Siegfried and his friends are celebrating his coming of age. The Prince’s mother enters and announces that her son should now marry, choosing from the Princess who will be presented at the ball the following evening. As dusk approaches, a flock of swans appear and Prince Siegfried sets off to shoot one of the noble birds.
Act II is set at The Lake. Beautiful Swans enthrall our Prince. Odette appears to Prince Siegfried in human form and reveals she is under the spell of an evil magician, Von Rothbart. By day, she lives as a swan. Odette and Prince Siegfried profess their love for each other, but daylight approaches and Odette must leave.
In Act III, we find ourselves at a grand ball—the ball at which our Prince is to choose a bride. Unimpressed with the lovely princesses who have attended, Prince Siegfried is frustrated. With sudden fanfare, Von Rothbart enters with his daughter Odile, whose resemblance to Odette immediately catches the Prince’s attention. Odile performs and easily wins over Prince Siegfried. His mother announces a betrothal, and our Prince realizes his mistake. Horrified, he pushes away Odile and rushes out—leaving his guests thoroughly confused.
Act IV takes us back to the lake; Odette and her Swans are heartbroken. Prince Siegfried explains his mistake, and Odette grants him forgiveness. Unfortunately, Von Rothbart appears and demands the Prince honors his work to marry Odile. The Prince refuses, and a fight ensues. In the end, good overcomes evil and true love prevails—Odette is freed from Rothbart’s spell!
Like many other classic ballets, there are countless productions of Swan Lake throughout the world. Many times, Act II is performed on its own. Our version of Swan Lake is closely related to the Kirov ballet’s version. I have kept a good bit of their choreography with minimal tweaking including the majority of Act 2 the Princess variations in Act 3, Odette and Prince Siegfried’s pas de deux in Act 2, and more! My own choreography and additions include Odette and Odile’s duet that opens Act 4, Jester class and soloist, Prologue Maidens, and a few more surprises! I am thrilled to introduce this ballet to our students, and I cannot wait to see them grow throughout this process!
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