Ballet West’s graceful Swan Lake

Ballet West's Swan Lake: photo courtesy of Luke Isley
Ballet West’s Swan Lake: photo courtesy of Luke Isley

Before Taylor Swift wore the Swan Lake costumes in her Shake It Off video, Tchaikovsky composed the heart-wrenching score for Swan Lake 138 years ago and Ballet West’s founder Willam Christensen created the first full-length American production in 1940.

Ballet West's Swan Lake: photo courtesy of Luke Isley
Ballet West’s Swan Lake: photo courtesy of Luke Isley

Swan Lake is the ultimate classical ballet. Filled with more than 50 dancers including ballerinas in dazzling tutus and a prince looking for love, Ballet West brings the Swan Lake fairy tale to life in Salt Lake City through February 15, 2015 at Capitol Theatre.

Swan Lake
Swan Lake

Premiered in 1877 by the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Ballet West’s Artistic Director Adam Sklute first re-staged this production in 2010, and builds upon his quest to showcase the simple truth and humanity of the characters.

Swan Lake begins with the evil Baron von Rothbart—a cold and spiteful sorcerer who appears as half man, half bird of prey—abducting young Princess Odette and transforming her into a swan.

Next, we meet Prince Siegfried (danced by Principal Rex Tilton) on his 21st birthday. His mother, the Queen, hopes that he will soon marry and ascend to the throne, but the prince is uninterested. His friend, Wolfgang, entertains the court with the story of the bird creature who lives in the ruins by the lake and captures young women, turns them into swans and holds them in his power. At just that moment a flock of swans fly overhead and the party goes off in search of them.

Swan Lake costume
Swan Lake costume

At the lake, Prince Siegfried and the audience meet the beautiful swans—who become human by the light of the moon. Lead by the swan queen Odette (Principal Christiana Bennett) and Tall Swans, soloists Allison DeBona and Emily Adams, the swan maidens are mesmerizing in their elegant, feathered white tutus and graceful, avian-like movements.

The four Cygnets, who perform a rhythmic variation in perfect unison was, in a word, astounding.

Act III begins at Prince Siegfried’s birthday in the castle. Princesses are on hand in hopes of winning Siegfried’s hand in marriage. Baron von Rothbart and his daughter Odile—who has been turned into the evil twin of Odette through black magic—are the last to arrive.

Ballet West's Swan Lake: photo courtesy of Luke Isley
Ballet West’s Swan Lake: photo courtesy of Luke Isley

Principal Christiana Bennett, who also dances the role of Odile, does as convincing a job of portraying the conniving evil twin as she does the demure Odette. The prince and Odile dance and the fluidity between Tilton and Bennett is magical. The prince finally declares his love for Odile (believing she is Odette).

To the horror of those gathered, Rothbart reveals himself as the wicked sorcerer and celebrates Siegfried’s betrayal of Odette.

The final act opens at the lake. Fog envelopes the swans as they believe that all hope of breaking the spell cast upon them is lost. The prince arrives and Odette forgives him. Rothbart is furious and a fight ensues. The lovers realize that they must throw themselves on the rocks below to break the sorcerer’s spell. Siegfried and Odette are reunited and as the sun rises, the former swans emerge from the mist as young women freed from their swan forms.

Ballet West's Swan Lake
Ballet West’s Swan Lake

Visually and artistically stunning from the corps to the queen, this production of Swan Lake is heightened further by the Ballet West Orchestra that performs the hauntingly beautiful Tchaikovsky score admirably and brings depth and a range of emotions to the performance.

Swan Lake could quite possibly be Ballet West’s finest production of the season.

Swan Lake continues at Capitol Theatre Wednesday-Sunday, February 11-15 with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and matinee performances at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at

Taylor Swift's Shake It Off video features Ballet West's Swan Lake costumes
Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off video features Ballet West’s Swan Lake costumes

To see the Swan Lake costumes in action in Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off video, view here: or stop by the display in the Capitol Theatre lobby.

Better still, check out the outtake video with the ballerinas here:



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