Swan Lake

Ballet’s spectacle does not always rest in high extensions and multiple pirouettes. In fact, sometimes precision gets lost in a catacomb of tricks. But moments such as the Dance of the Cygnets from Act II of Swan Lake recapture ballet's purity with meticulous footwork and teamwork. Its cohesiveness reveals how simplicity can enrapture an audience. With hands interlaced, these four Bolshoi ballerinas coordinate their épaulement and piqués as if they are perfect replicas of one another. Enjoy this quick moment of intricacy. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

When ballet companies perform Swan Lake, all buzz tends to be about the ballerinas dancing Odette/Odile. But what would the work be without its corps of swan maidens?

Though not in the spotlight, their task is, in many ways, just as challenging as the Swan Queen's: They must maintain perfect unison, moving and breathing as one, to create some of the ballet's spine-tingling moments. Oh, and they have to avoid foot cramps (not to mention suffer through itches that can't be scratched) during long periods of standing, when they're essentially living scenery.

What makes a great ballet partnership? To most of us, it seems to be some mysterious combination of sweat and magic.

 

Who's ready for the Mariinsky Ballet to pop off their movie theater screen tomorrow? Ekaterina Kondaurova is! We love this pic of her in a tutu, tiara and 3-D glasses. She's starring in the James Cameron–produced live 3D screening of Swan Lake tomorrow. U.S. theaters will begin showing it at 6:30 pm. Check out fathomevents.com for ticket info and local listings near you.

The Mariinsky Ballet's exquisite Ekaterina Kondaurova is coming to your local movie theater in 3D next month—courtesy of Avatar director James Cameron. The acclaimed filmmaker has teamed up with Mariinsky director Valery Gergiev to broadcast the first-ever live 3D ballet. Audiences across the U.S., Europe, South America, Australia and Asia will be able watch Kondaurova perform Odette/Odile in Swan Lake in real-time from St. Petersburg.

Exciting things are happening down under: To commemorate Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 60th anniversary, the company is teaming up with local fashion designer Tamsin Cooper to create a new ballet-inspired fashion line. Cooper’s collection, based on “Swan Lake” (which the RNZB will perform in July), will feature tutu-like skirts, jackets, coats and bags—in only black and white, of course. The items will be unveiled next month as part of New Zealand’s iD Dunedin Fashion Week.

I have a serious weakness for great swan arms. When Odette pulls off smooth ripples outwards from the center of her spine through to her tips of the fingers, it gives me chills. Because I know how crazy hard they are to do well! Swan arms can take hours of practice and many varying ways of thinking about the movement. I've even watched top ballerinas continue working on them over and over in rehearsal—even after already having performed the ballet dozens of times.

 

You have to wonder how much experience Petipa actually had with swans. They're elegant and graceful, yes--but they're also mean, hissy, scary even. The male swans of Matthew Bourne's wildly popular Swan Lake hit much closer to the mark, in that respect, than Petipa's tutu-clad flock. Bourne's beastly birds are seductive and arrogant--about as far from damsels in distress as you can get. Instead, they're symbols of freedom and empowerment. Bourne's Prince doesn't attempt to rescue his Swan--the Swan rescues the Prince.

When I was at an ABT summer intensive years ago, one of my teachers told our class that the most thrilling pirouettes aren't the tazmanian devilishly fast spins, but they are the slow, smooth turns that look like they're effortlessly in control. This made a huge impact on me because up until that moment, I had always been trying to speed up my pirouettes to make them look more impressive—and also because immediately after listening to this bit of wisdom I performed my first quadruple pirouette on pointe.

Published December 3, 2009
2006 was a very good year for American Ballet Theatre's Julie Kentmore »