5 Oct 2017
10 Things You May Not Know About “Swan Lake”
The struggle between good and evil at the heart of Swan Lake, makes it the quintessential ballet of all time. As Ballet Arizona prepares to bring Swan Lake back to the stage this month, here are a few facts that you may not know about this iconic ballet.
- Swan Lake was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s first ballet composition. It was written on the demand of The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow just for one practical reason – Russian aristocracy loved ballet.
- Some think that Swan Lake is based on the German fairytale “The Stolen Veil”. Others argue that it is derived from the Russian folktale “The White Duck”. Either way, Artistic Director, Ib Andersen, believes that, “It is about human emotion and the music gives it such everlasting power. If done right, then even cynics will change their minds.”
- There are several endings to Swan Lake, but in Ib Andersen’s version Odette leaves heartbroken and remains a swan forever.
- Swan Lake was first performed on March 4, 1877 and was regarded as a failure. Critics dismissed Tchaikovsky’s music as too noisy. Dancers disliked the fast-paced score. It wasn’t until after Tchaikovsky’s death that French choreographer, Marius Petipa, revived the iconic ballet.
- Ballet Arizona’s production of Swan Lake features 24 Swan Corps ballerinas. Additionally, the men often get to go home early because they are not in Act 4 (with the exception of the Sorcerer Von Rothbart and the Prince).
- Prince Siegfried is said to be loosely based on Bavarian King Ludwig II, who was obsessed with Swans. Interestingly, Lugwig’s castle, Neuschwanstein, literally translates as “New Swan-on-the-rock Castle” and was also the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.
- During Ballet Arizona’s production, ballerinas may use up to three pairs of pointe shoes during one performance of Swan Lake.
- Pierina Legnani was the first to perform the roles of Odette and Odile in Petipa’s version of Swan Lake in 1895 and is considered to have set the barre for the roles.
- Ballet Arizona’s Swan Lake costumes come from all over the country and are even created by our in-house costume and design experts. We own all costumes for Acts 1 and 3 but the swan costumes are from Boston Ballet and the Odette/Odile costumes come from Atlanta Ballet.
- Swan Lake is famous for the 32 fouettés en tournant in Act 3, an incredible athletic feat. These fouettés are danced at the end of the “Black Swan” pas de deux by the ballerina playing Odile. The pas was an afterthought of Tchaikovsky’s. It was not included in the original production.
Don’t miss Ballet Arizona’s production of Swan Lake at Symphony Hall featuring The Phoenix Symphony. The production runs Thursday, October 26 through Sunday, October 29. Click here to purchase tickets and view the performance schedule.