Artscape: Swan Lake

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Departing from unique one-time shows and memorable spins on modern fare, BalletMet will perform one of classical ballet's most beloved works this weekend with help from another Ohio company.

Swan Lake will run Friday-Sunday at the Ohio Theatre, then head south for another engagement at the main residence of the Cincinnati Ballet.

"Because our dancers are very well-versed in different types of dance, it gives us a different look and physicality when we do the classics," said BalletMet's Carrie West, performing the lead role of Odette. "Classical ballet is hard and very different. It's been a struggle to get ourselves in that frame of mind, but once we're there, we're going to add a new dimension to it."

Regarded as one of Tchaikovsky's three masterworks, Swan Lake includes some of the genre's most demanding footwork, with elaborate ensembles that require larger casts and expert choreography. From its premiere in 1877 at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre, some of the most famous dancers have appeared in the ballet's trademark white tutus.

"It's an honor," West added. "This is a role that's been done by so many great artists. It's a bit of a weight. You have to live up to standards, but you want to make it your own."

Borrowing from Russian, German and Baltic folk tales, the story follows Odette, a princess turned into a swan by a sorcerer's curse. She lives as waterfowl by day, beautiful woman at night, and attracts the love of headstrong, handsome Prince Siegfried. Together, the two attempt to break Baron von Rothbart's wicked spell with true love.

Romantic and technical, Swan Lake has remained a favorite of international audiences and is likely the reason your little sister started taking ballet lessons. The drawing power of its name should benefit BalletMet, which posted a record $400,000 budget deficit during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

"Swan Lake is a fantastic work to present at any time, but certainly its popularity is a plus in these challenging times," Artistic Director Gerard Charles said by e-mail earlier this week. "The biggest impetus to present it at this time was that it seemed like the ideal collaborative work for BalletMet and Cincinnati Ballet."

The two companies have worked together before, on Jewels in 2003 and Stars and Stripes in 2006. With up to 50 dancers needed on stage this time around, the partnership is especially important.

"Both cities are going to benefit from a much more lavish and full ballet on stagethen either company would have been able to mount individually - and at a cost that is less than would have been the case if presented individually," Charles added.

BalletMet dancers, long known for shaking things up, also benefit creatively from hashing out the details with their Cincinnati colleagues, West said.

"We have our own way of doing things, and when you bring in other people,

it changes," she explained. "You have to be on your toes, ready for anything. It's exciting."

Kristi Capps, a principal dancer with Cincinnati Ballet, agreed.

"When you get that many people in the room, there's a whole lot of energy," said Capps, who will dance the lead during the Cincinnati run. "It's going to be incredible. Seeing 24 swans on stage brought chills to some of us. The whole stage is going to be filled with white."

"Swan Lake"

When: Friday-Sunday, Oct. 16-18

Where: Ohio Theatre, Downtown