What's It Really Like to Dance Odette/Odile?

 

For most ballet dancers, just dancing Odette/Odile once would be the opportunity of a lifetime. Few are lucky enough to reprise the role. But that's just what longtime Ballet Memphis dancer Crystal Brothers is doing when the company presents the full-length Swan Lake for the first time in 15 years. Pointe spoke with Brothers before this weekend's performance.

How have you grown as an artist since you first danced Odette/Odile?
I certainly know more about myself as a dancer now, what I'm capable of and what I want to strive for. It's not about executing arabesques, pliés and tendus. It's about the feelings and what's happening inside me when I'm doing those steps. Maybe I understand and fully appreciate the story and characters more. It feels like a brighter and bigger rainbow to me, and now there are more colors for me to access.
Do you gravitate more toward Odette or Odile?
I love them both so differently, but it's probably easier for me to access Odile, simply because she's very forward. She's manipulative, large and in charge and powerful, and I can connect with that. However, my sweet Odette is as delicate as a snowflake, but she's got this iron will and selfless love. I have to approach each character differently. The way I hold my fingers for Odette, the inclination of the head, the softness, is completely different from Odile's more energetic fingers, playful eyes and sharp head movements. 
Have you had to adjust your cross-training to help you prepare?
Yes, absolutely. I already have a very strict regimen that I do to keep myself in shape. I wake up, I take a hot bath, I ice my feet, I work on the Pilates reformer at home, I do my stretching. But I laugh because my hot baths have increased two-fold. If I was taking two hot baths a day, now I'm taking four. 

What do you love most about Swan Lake?

First of all, hearing the score played live gives me goosebumps every time. And I love to fall in love onstage--I'm a romantic at heart. I also love to be very sassy, so the fact that I get to do both is right up my alley. It's the hugest gift wrapped up into one ballet. Yes, it's hard. I get blisters and bruised toenails, and I cry and I hurt, but at the end of the day, I'm doing what I love.

 

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Photo by Ari Denison, Courtesy Ballet Memphis.

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