Sixteen Reasons to See Swan Lake

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Addie Tapp in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy Boston Ballet

Swan Lake is over a century old, but there is nothing stale or stuffy about it.  The choreography, special effects, set and stunning dancers have the audience sitting on the edge of their seats for Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake.

This year, Boston Ballet offered a master class for Adult dancers of all levels.  I was very excited (okay and a little nervous) about taking class with company member Corina Gill and learning part of Swan Lake.  The class was excellent and learning the choreography was so much fun and gave us a great reminder of how hard performing a ballet really is.  The class was so popular that they added an additional date. If you are returning to dance as an adult or if you are beginning Boston Ballet has some great opportunities for workshops, classes and intensives.  Boston Ballet provided me with tickets to see Swan Lake.  As always, all my opinionated opinions are my own and you may agree with them or disagree, but when a room full of audience members collectively breathes in with awe there is no denying the power of the performance.

Okay and now back to Swan Lake.  Here is a slate of sixteen simple reasons that Swan Lake should not be missed.

  1. Swan arms.  Swan arms are just a small part of what makes Swan Lake so unique.  Misa Kuranaga is a master of transformation not only making her ams become her swan neck and hand take on the expressions of a swan.

    Boston Ballet
    Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet
  2. Swaying skirts. The castle ballroom is quite a feast for the eyes as princesses, Spanish, Czardas, Neapolitan and Mazurka dancers perform.  Their dances are full of folk and character style as are their swaying skirts.
  3. Scarlet Capes and Robes. There are long sweeping robes that trail along the floor and expertly tailored capes and robes in a beautiful scarlet red.
  4. Smirking smiles. Seeing Misa Kuranaga transform herself from the frightened and gentle Odette to the smirking, mischeviously smiling Odile is a treat.  It isn’t just about those foutées.  The dancing of each character is completely transformative.
  5. Struggle. The Struggle is real.  What is a prince to do when he’s looking for love and there is a sorcer messing with his head.  Isn’t love complicated enough?
  6. Singing strings. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music for Swan Lake is so beautiful it almost competes with the performance on stage. The mood and energy of each scene is enhanced by the sweetly singing strings, woodwinds, and the orchestra as a whole.  The sadness you hear in the music will only be greater once you learn (I’m telling you now.) that this is conducter Jonathan McPhee’s swan song.  After a 27 year tenure, Mr. McPhee will be greatly missed.  He will stay on in an advisory role for the coming season and Boston Ballet will honor him as Music Director Emeritus.
  7. Six Hundred Hours.  Boston Ballet dancers have had 600 hours of rehearsal time to perfect the Black Swan’s 32 foutté turns, corps de ballet swans swirling around the stage, princesses dancing, and sorcerer turning and leaping through the mist.
  8. Scintillating sparkle.  This is sparkle like you’ve never seen before (partially because it’s on a body that can do 32 fouttées.  Isabelle said it sparkles so much it is like the paparazzi with their flashes going off every second.  Odile’s costume has more than 4,000 crystal jewels.
  9. Square Feet of sets.  For the set, 34,000 square feet of fabric was handpainted locally.  The sets are stunning. From eerie outdoor lake to grandiose ballrooms the sets must vary dramatically and they do not disappoint.

    Boston Ballet
    Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet
  10. Swimming swans.  The audience gasps as the swans emerge on stage, swimming on a mirage of a pond that has you rubbing your eyes because it could almost be there but you know the stage hasn’t magically filled with water.

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    Guest Artist Gonzalo Garcia and Principal Misa Kuranaga in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy Boston Ballet
  11. Special guests and students.  Swan Lake opened with guest artist Gonzalo Garcia who partnered with Mis Kuranaga courtesy of New York City Ballet.  Several students from the Boston Ballet School perform with the company, which is a great honor and it is always nice for young dancers in the audience to see children on stage and dream of some day being there too.  Also a unique treat is that, neither quite special guests, nor quite students any longer, the Boston Ballet II company members also perform with the company.

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    Ji Young Chae and John Lam in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy Boston Ballet
  12. Stellar leaps and lifts.  Both Lasha Khozashvili and Junxiong Zhao were impressively strong as they lept across the stage and deftly supported their leading ladies in their lifts.

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    Jillian Barrell, Maria Alvarez, Diana Albrecht, and Corina Gill in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet
  13. Synchronized cygnets. Playful and cute yet difficult to perform is the famous quartet of cygnets hopping and gliding across the stage.  Diana Albrecht, Maria Alvarez, Jillian Barrell and Corina Gill were the perfect quartet.

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    Misa Kuranaga in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy Boston Ballet
  14. Stunning stills. At the top of some of the lifts, and at the end of some of the leaps and turns, time seemed to stand still. It was as if the scene was frozen in a photograph. Swan Lake is full of these moments. I still haven’t figured out if time actually freezes or if the audience is just so drawn into the moment that we hold our breath and time seems to freeze for a moment.

    Boston Ballet
    Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet
  15. Sliver of a moon. The sliver of a moon casts a silver light upon the stage. Those lake scenes are both beautiful and eerie at once. If you have never seen Swan Lake, the lake scenes will take your breath away.  The corps de ballet’s flock of swans is second only to Odette/Odile. There are scenes when they dance as one and in a sense become the prima ballerina of those scenes.
  16. Sunday Matinees. Swan Lake is a wonderful performance for children. There is drama, a party or two, a little sorcery, a clear story, the famous fouettés, and a lot of sparkle. Evening shows may be difficult for little ones so a Saturday or Sunday Matinee is just right. Matinees are:  Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 1:00 pm,Sunday, May 8, 2016 at 1:00 pm, Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm, Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 1:00 pmNB: Swan Lake will run in conjunction with Boston Ballet’s mixed repertory program, Mirrors, during the month of May at the Boston Opera House. Please visit bostonballet.org for a complete schedule of Boston Ballet performances this spring.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Victoria says:

    Oh, Leah, your post makes me want to go and see it again! Thank you for breaking it down and explaining the many awesome (and difficult!) things that make a brilliant performance!

    Like

    1. leahklein says:

      Thanks Victoria. Hope you get to see it! I am so excited for Mirrors too. I cannot wait to see each piece!

      Like

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