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Swan Lake ballet arrives at the Morris

Molly Griffin | Wednesday, November 10, 2004

While many people may not have extensive knowledge of ballets, most will have at least heard of “Swan Lake.” It is one of the most popular and frequently performed productions in ballet, and there are interesting stories behind the story, music and choreography that add to its mythic status. The Moscow Ballet will perform “Swan Lake” at the Morris Performing Arts Center Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The story of “Swan Lake” is part of a longstanding mythological tradition of women transforming into birds, with examples in a diverse range of cultures, including Greek, Arabic and Russian. The ballet follows Odette, the Swan Queen, who is transformed into a swan by the sorcerer, Von Rothbart. The Swan Lake was formed by her parent’s tears after she was kidnapped by the magician. A prince, Siegfried, falls in love with her, and Odette explains she must remain as a swan-woman hybrid until she is pledged a man’s undying love. Siegfried pledges his love to her, but he is tricked into giving his love to Odile, who is Odette’s evil twin. The prince realizes he has accidentally betrayed his love, and he races to meet Odette. She is dying, but he throws her tiara in the lake, it rises and they are united together in death. There are many subtle variations applied to the story, and like many classics, it is reinterpreted with a variety of settings and costumes. Peter Tchaikovsky, the famous classical composer, wrote the score to the equally well-known ballet. He had never written an entire ballet before “Swan Lake,” and he died before he ever saw the work performed in its entirety. The difficulty and complexities of the score initially caused trouble for the original dancers, but the work radically changed the music to which ballets were performed, as well as how they were danced. Due to the usual nature of Tchaikovsky’s score, the choreography of “Swan Lake” became somewhat of a problem. Russian choreographers Marius Pepita and Lev Ivanov worked to create dances that worked with the composer’s difficult score, and they finally emerged with what has become the standard choreography for “Swan Lake.” Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani added an another level of technical difficulty when she introduced a sequence that included 32 ‘fouettés,’ which are fast, whipping turns done on one foot. The music and beauty of the production, combined with the technical difficulty of the production has made it a favorite of audiences and dancers the world over. Tickets are available at the Morris Performing Arts Center.