'Swan Lake' to keep Minneapolis audiences on their toes

By Tatiana Craine

For over a century, “Swan Lake” has enjoyed a long and illustrious reputation for being one of the most iconic and romantic ballets performed. Today, the ballet comes to life beyond the stage, gracefully dancing its way to film and television, books and art. First performed in 1877, the ballet follows the story of Odette, a princess captured by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. Odette falls prey to a powerful spell cast by the sinister man, turning into a swan during the day and transforming back into a human at nightfall. However, she isn’t Rothbart’s only victim-there’s a whole flock of swans under the spell who champion the tragic Odette as their queen.

As fairytale ballets often go, there’s a prince involved, too. While out in the forest, Prince Siegfried catches a glimpse of the beautiful Odette as she metamorphoses from her bird-form into a woman once more. True to form, the couple fall in love immediately. At long last, Odette’s hopes for the spell to break might come true if Siegfried can prove his eternal fidelity to her.

However, Rothbart has other plans for the girl when the prince invites her to a ball. Unbeknownst to Prince Siegfried, the sorceror has a daughter that looks identical to the Swan Queen named Odile. (Soap opera en pointe, right?)

Odile shows up at the dance, tricks Siegfried into declaring his undying love for the imposter, simultaneously rendering poor Odette a swan forever unless she makes a grave decision.

What makes “Swan Lake” appealing after more than 100 years is exactly what makes any love story timeless-true love thwarted by the forces of evil and tested to its absolute limits. Love isn’t always about the happily-ever-after, it’s the lengths a pair of individuals will go to in efforts to reach that lofty goal.

“Swan Lake,” composed by Pyortr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, features one of the most emotionally stirring and expressive scores in the ballet world. Immediately recognizable and concurrently heart-wrenching, Tchaikovsky’s iconic composition truly flutters to life onstage with dancers performing.

This February, the Voronezh State Ballet Theatre of Russia will perform this classic ballet at the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium for one night only. The New York Times hails the production “a visual treat, and a testament to the enduring charm of classical Russian ballet.” As the final performance of the 2010-2011 season at Northrup, the production promises to bring all the magic, mysticism and tragedy of “Swan Lake.” Starring the famed dancers of the Voronezh company, Odette, Siegfried and Rothbart become vibrant, vivacious characters that tug at the heartstrings.

“Swan Lake” debuts at Northrop Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets run $35-58. Visit http://northrop.umn.edu/ for tickets and more information.