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Swan Lake
by Aaron Hunt
2018-10-24

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Composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

At Joffrey Ballet at The Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.; 312-386-8905; Joffrey.org; $35-$195. Runs through: Oct. 28

A story of magic, mystery and an impossible love bourrées onto the stage of Roosevelt University's Auditorium Theatre with the Joffrey's production of Swan Lake. This production, which the company premiered here in 2014, was critically acclaimed, and kept the box office's cash registers ringing.

Composer Pyotr ( Peter ) Ilyich Tchaikovsky—who also gave us the The Nutcracker ballet—composed Swan Lake in 1975-76. The story tells of Princess Odette, who was turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer, along with her ladies. Prince Siegfried meets a swan, who suddenly turns into a beautiful young maiden. When he learns why she and her flock spend daytimes as feathered creatures gliding on a lake, and their nights as outcast women, Siegfried prepares to shoot the sorcerer. Odette stops him, because the spell must be broken before his death. They promptly fall in love.

Later, at a ball, the sorcerer turns up with Odile, disguised by his magic to look just like Odette. Believing his eyes, Siegfried vows to marry this "black swan." When the subterfuge is revealed, Siegfried rushes to Odette and apologizes; however, now that Odette has been betrayed, she will remain a swan forever. ( It's a fairy tale, folks. ) They jump in the lake together and take a deep breath.

Over the years, directors have tweaked and twisted this plot to their own purposes. The plot is so fantastical that these changes don't destroy the essential love story. Director/Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's production uses the conceit of a ballet within a ballet. The piece opens at the Paris Opera, where the ballet company is preparing for the opening night of Swan Lake.

The leading male dancer is in love with one of the ballerinas, who is pursued by a wealthy patron with unhealthy designs on her. Here we have our prince, swan, and sorcerer. The rehearsal begins, and the line between fantasy and reality smear. There are times when it isn't clear whether a moment is concrete or imaginary—it would be helpful to know exactly what's actually happening. Costume designer Jean-Marc Puissant doesn't use feathers on any of the swan's tutus, which further muddies these waters.

Tchaikovsky's music and the dances of the original choreographer Marius Petipa ( considered so untouchable that the most familiar segments are always left intact ) carry the day. Music director/conductor Scott Speck keeps the orchestra in perfect harmony with the movement, and our amazing dancers bring the magic.


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