On the first weekend of April, Saint Louis Ballet took the stage at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center to perform its rendition of the acclaimed ballet, “Swan Lake.” The company’s rendition of the ballet featured choreography by artistic director Gen Horiuchi, in addition to the classic aspects that have appeared in the ballet since its beginning.
“Swan Lake” was originally set in 1875 by the famous Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The first time that the ballet saw the stage was on March 4th, 1877, performed by the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, with choreography by Julius Reisinger. The origin of the story of Swan Lake is often disputed, but is said to have been derived from both “Der geraubte Schleier” (“The Stolen Veil”), a story by German author Johann Karl August Musäus, and the Russian folktale, “The White Duck.”
In each production of “Swan Lake,” there are four main characters. The main character, Princess Odette, also known as the White Swan, is the lead ballerina role, most likely to be held by a dancer who is a principle dancer within in the company. The ballet is the story of her falling in love with Prince Siegfried, whose role is played by the lead male ballerina. Von Rothbart is the main antagonist in the story. He has turned Princess Odette into a swan, for reasons that are unknown, as he is an evil sorcerer. Von Rothbart’s daughter is Odile, who is also known as the Black Swan, and who strives to be like her father, joining in on his evil ways.
The story starts off with a prologue, in which a young Princess Odette and Prince Siegfried are playing around when the powerful Von Rothbart comes upon Odette and casts a spell on her while the Prince has gone away to talk to his mother. This is then followed by two acts. In the first scene of the first act, Prince Siegfried’s birthday is approaching, and as a gift, his mother gives him a crossbow, and tells him that he must choose a wife. The Prince, frustrated that there is no one he loves, leaves his castle to go into the forest, where he sees a group of swans fly by, and sets off in pursuit of them with his crossbow.
The second scene starts with the Prince aiming his crossbow at the swans when he notices a beautiful swan, and realizes that the swan is Princess Odette from his childhood. The two dance together and the Prince vows that he will marry her at the ball, which will dispel Von Rothbart’s curse. The second act opens at the castle during the birthday ball for the Prince. Von Rothbart arrives with his daughter – who is disguised to look like Odette – and the Prince mistakenly professes his love for Odile, rather than Odette. The final scene consists of Siegfried going with Odette to where the swans gather, and apologizing for what he has done. Von Rothbart arrives and tries to kill the Prince by throwing him off a cliff, and Odette chases after him, leaving the swans to overcome Von Rothbart. With him no longer alive, all the swans are able to break the curse and turn back to their human form, and the Prince and Princess are allowed to live together happily.
The Saint Louis Ballet’s version of the well-known ballet was of course nothing less than spectacular. The Dance of the Little Swans was a remarkable highlight, which consists of a quick “petit allegro” (meaning small jumps), where four swan members of the corps must rapidly do many repetitions of “pas de chats” and “entrechats,” all while holding hands together and simultaneously moving their heads in various directions. Another magnificent moment during the ballet was the thirty-two “fouette’s” (an advanced turn, in French meaning “to whip”) done by the Swan Queen, Odile, who was played by Lori Wilson of Lubbock, Texas. The thirty-two “fouette’s” is iconic in the ballet world, and is something that most ballerinas aspire to master. During this performance, the incredible feat was followed by an eruption of applause for Wilson’s impressive ability.
Overall, The Saint Louis Ballet’s version of “Swan Lake” was a stunning sight to see, from the costuming, to the set design and the beautiful dancing. The final curtain was met with a long, standing ovation from the audience, which was most definitely impressed by the strong performance of the ballet dancers.