The Swan Lake Ballet

Exquisite Choreography in the Swan Lake Ballet

Swan Lake is an epic tale about a beautiful young princess placed under a spell by an evil sorcerer, which makes her a swan during the day and a woman by night. The lady can only break the spell by being betrothed to a man that has never lain with a female before. Fortunately for the young princess, Odette, the prince Siegfried falls deeply in love with her and vows to marry her. The sorcerer fears that the spell will be broken and devises an evil plan, making the prince propose marriage to another lady. On hearing this, a heartbroken and hopeless Odette jumps into the lake attempting suicide and the prince follows her. They both die, but are reunited as lovers in the spirit world in an extremely emotive ending (Pudelek, 1990). While the story has received remarkable reviews about its imagery and classical themes, the most popular subject is perhaps the choreography.

The play was originally scripted, directed and produced by Tchaiskovsky in the 19th century, but has been reproduced by various directors whose seek to improve and diversify the choreography. The current version of the Swan Lake has been choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, who incorporate classical dance with modern choreography. Divided into four acts, the choreography incorporates cygnets, maiden swans, Spanish dancers, Neapolitan dancers, Hungarian dancers (czardas) and mazurkas. Given that there is no use of words, the actors use the choreography to tell the story and this is delivered in such a fluid and graceful manner.

Initially in the play, Odette delivers such a compelling solo in the first scene, which makes it impossible to take one’s eyes off the stage. In this version, young Siegfried is allowed to dance unlike previous versions where he only walked around the stage providing waist anchorage for the princess (Maciulewicz, 2012). Admittedly, Siegfried’s foot articulation is impeccably matched with the princess’ as they glide across the stage in unison. At the same time, Siegfried is so fast and fluid that he is at the same pace as Odette – such a breeze for them. The effect on the audience was so electric in every way, that it reminds one of the ballyhoo when Ulanova danced Giselle outside the Soviet Union in 1956. Ivanov provides a nice, solid technique for all the other dancers, especially the swans that are so petite and are able to jump so high. The graceful swans deliver a classical piece, much like the czardas who play out a solid Scandinavian piece. This is matched with the Spanish choreographers who set free, amazing technique, balance and great expression.

In addition, the cast is provided with elegant and tasteful costumes that represent the time and culture intended by the tale and understated enough to ensure the dance remains the main focus. For the swans, the material is sheer but classy enough to bring out the beautiful swan imagery. The Neapolitan dancers are also dressed in chic native clothing that is timeless when coupled with the classical choreography. Ivanov puts a twist in the entire piece by incorporating Sergevey’s additional choreography pieces ultimately creating a powerful performance that balances an epic tale of love versus evil with beautiful, fine and graceful choreography integrating modern dance with cultural variety (Robinson, 1987). The delicate swan dancers led by the princess flow impeccably with the raw and uncensored dance of the male choreographers.

Maciulewicz, J. Ballet Review: Swan Lake. Retrieved 8th May, 2013 from
Pudelek, J. (1990). Swan Lake in Warsaw, 1900. Dance Chronicle. Vol. 13. Pg.359-360
Robinson, H. (1987).  “Review: Swan Lake.” The Slavic and East European Journal. Vol. 31. Pg. 639-640