Ballet Stars

#TBT: Evelyn Hart in “Swan Lake” (1988)

Evelyn Hart in "Swan Lake," via YouTube.

The individual touches that ballerinas incorporate into well-known classical variations are a source of endless fascination for us bunheads. (The abundant "variation compilation" videos on YouTube is proof of our obsession!) Odette's solo in Swan Lake's Act II is one that is particularly open to interpretation. The style is lyrical and introspective, giving dancers ample opportunity to make personal choices about choreography, musicality and character. The Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart, a former principal with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, performs a fairly traditional version in this clip, yet with each nuance she defines her own Odette.

Evelyn Hart as Odette (1988) www.youtube.com


Hart floats her willowy limbs around her, stretching out the sweet opening notes of the solo. She is shrouded in a sort of ephemeral glow—a lucky by-product of the camera technology from this 1988 film with London Festival Ballet. She times her port de bras precisely, turning each bend and break of her arm into the ruffling of a wing. Her bourrées vary in speed, creating an illusion of fluttering feathers with quick twitches of her feet. In a gorgeous, expressive moment at 1:50, she dives into a deep, arched penché arabesque and then piqués backward into suspended, longing passé. When the music changes in the last pass of turns, becoming more robust in tone, Hart decides to show the audience a different side of Odette. With proud port de bras and a slight jump into her turns, she reveals the steely strength at the core of this swan queen. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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