Local Students Review Swan Lake


Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet
Photo: Alexander Iziliaev


Shatiana Wackens

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar

Bodine High School

Class of 2016

On March 15, 2015 at the Academy of Music Pennsylvania Ballet presented Swan Lake incredibly. Swan Lake is an illusion of fantasy vs. reality. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon each act of Swan Lake portrayed the corrupt love store magnificently. With an amazing assemble that help go from fantasy to reality within this story. I’ve heardSwan Lake to be an amazing piece that is never truly performed well but, it was well performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Swan Lake starts off with the ballerinas in a dance studio as if they are getting ready for a normal rehearsal. They stretch casually, while some tie up their hair. The synchronization of the music has a slow catchy rhythm, leaving me with a feeling of anticipation. Six dancers are dressed in pale pink leotards their movement as if mirroring one another. These six women are currently in reality but they transfer to fantasy as the leading male falls for the beautiful swan. They performed soft turns and low jumps as they dance for the inspectors.

By Act 3 I really noticed how the swans and the fancy dinner guest contrasted one another. There are at least three sets of couple who dance a variety of movement from feisty Latina to elegant encircling. It seems as if the lead male is searching for his love but he his easily tricked when the black Swan appears. She follows the orders of the villain who is a shiesty as they get. The Black Swan is beautiful and enticing with her slow predator-like leaps and swaying of the arms. The music piece gradually added effects to the mood as it rises and falls. I’m nearly amazed at how the assemble of swans manage to reflect the same exact movement at once. They are moving so similarly they remind me of Chinese Origami, that’s the same inside and out. Pennsylvania Ballet always delivers amazingly so, when intermission is over and Act 4 begins I am expecting a phenomenal closing.

The villain is desperately trying to keep the good swan and her lover apart with the help of his other minions. The villain is quick on his feet, with powerful actions. There is a sullen mood as the lights are dim, and the music soft. The Swans all at once swirl and leap their way out of the dance studio as they guy lays as if posing for a pine piece of art on the dance studio floor. The Swans help to bring the drama of this love story with their amazing high swirls, low jumps and firmly poised synchronization.

I found this performance to amazing but it’s a piece you have to see for yourself in order to fully understand why this piece was so amazing.


Matthew Ridley

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar

Northeast High School

Class of 2015

I have always heard about Swan Lake through television references and through the opinions of others, but I had never actually seen the production myself. On the Sunday of March 15, 2015, however, I received my long awaited taste of one of Tchaikovsky’s greatest acclaimed ballets. Although this was a reinterpretation by the widely acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, Swan Lake grabbed the attention of spectators both new and old into its grand halls at the Pennsylvania Ballet, complete with amphitheater. The audience was subjected to a performance that was drowning in emotion, beginning from the introduction of the ensemble to Prince Siegfried (played by Lorin Mathis) and his grief towards being unable to save his love from being a swan forever. Throughout the performance, the prince is engaged in situations that that seem a bit “off”; to clarify, some of his actions take place not only in reality, but in his imagination. Taking into account the story and plot behind Swan Lake, many of these events that occur have a distinction between fantasy and reality. For example, the reality aspect fits the part of the story that sets Swan Lake as a frame story, while the fantasy aspect focuses on the supernatural, including transformations (the main female lead Odette, played by Lillian Dipiazza, has been turned a “swan” by a magic spell). Despite these contrasts with events, the production seems to fulfill both environments while still being successful in convincing the audience that both parts harmoniously work as one. Swan Lake’s differences in environment function primarily through the use of subtle effects, such as the background, lighting/colors, and costumes worn. Christopher Wheeldon likely intended these effects for Swan Lake in order to create a world in which both reality and fantasy coexist seamlessly.

Environments are often accompanied by a background, and in most ballets, the latter is adjusted to fit the scene. The interesting thing with the background of this production of Swan Lake is that there is only one background used for the entire ballet (with its four acts), and yet the setting is versatile enough to be used for both indoors and outdoors. A dance rehearsal studio with a large window and door frame, it is integral to blending both reality and fantasy because the simplicity yet flexibility of the background works to serve the role as being a medium. In the beginning, the ensemble pass one by one through the door frame (from which we can see that the wall is transparent), and because of the presence of a seating bench in the middle of the room (later replaced by a studio), it is clear that the scene is taking place indoors. However, as the ballet progresses, the background inverses as an outdoor setting, especially when the prince is looking for Odette; it can be noted that due to the absence of props on stage (compared to the reality’s setting) and color usage depicting night that the wall can actually look reversible. From this, an indication can be made that reality involves the tangible such as items that we can see and the dancers can interact with, while fantasy focuses on what is intangible and more so how the characters feel (which is why during these moments, the dancers are often unaccompanied by any props). As such, the background helps to keep the idea of reality and fantasy subtle as it brings little attention to itself throughout the ballet aside from these key details. Even so, the fact that there is no breaks or intermissions between reality and fantasy helps the viewer to see both aspects as one whole and not give it much thought, which seems natural for Wheeldon as he often introduces an abstract, dramatic style in his works. Subtle hints such as these help to point out what may be the difference between reality and fantasy, while not making it blatantly obvious to the point of obstructing the ballet. The original story’s plot already clarifies this for the viewers.

In conjunction with the background, the lighting and colors used in the ballet seem to be grand indicators of whether or not a fantasy is being entered. In parts where the plot follows the main points of the story and where events among groups are taking place (such as the reality of making a production in the ballet as a framework), the lights may be merely refined either as a light tan color or no color at all. However, in most of the night scenes (which is the time where Prince Siegfried meets Odette and also attempts to save her while she leaps and extends her arms along with the other females turned swans), there are a mixture of different variations of color on the stage, from reddish-purple to green to blue. The Prince seems to be engulfed in a sepia/tan-like light as he hurriedly moves across the stage in both tiptoe and leap, amid the frenzy of colors that go on their own paths from the protagonist. The times of day and night cannot be defined as reality and fantasy respectively, as the main story of Swan Lake does not take much into account about the concept of time unless it is one of the aforementioned scenes. Although this distinction is made near the beginning, it gets difficult to decipher reality from fantasy as they both merge with the plot, meaning that the lights become successful in throwing off what the viewer may have established as a pattern. Therefore both parts seem to weave a portion of the story into one another.

Finally, as a third and final element to the triad with background and lighting, the attire of the ballet performers adds further distinction of the separation between fantasy and reality, although this is only taken away as the ballet progresses in order for both aspects to appear completely inseparable. At first there seems to be a line between royal and supernatural, as the girls who are dubbed swans wear white ballerina tutus, as the rest of the performers have on a variety of other colors and pieces based on their characters. The cabaret dancers wear bits of green and purple while doing a rushed can-can that the other characters in their straightened suits and light colored dresses seem to disregard. The attires indicate the specific roles of each character, although such characterization proves null as the plot defines the ballet’s duration for us. Choosing a simple design for the swans (such as a lack of flashy jewels or glitter) help them to stand out less and to conceal their identities of who they are to the rest of the dancers, and to an extent the viewer as well. For this reason, the viewer cannot distinguish the two aspects. But why is this so? While we are sure that the event of the reception is occurring, the dancers seem to be more of an illusion based on their colors in conjunction with the aforementioned darkened colors of the stage lighting. In truth, it is the simplicity of style yet complexity of meaning in this area that gives off the idea that both fantasy and reality are merged together; apart from the times in which the appear (the swans hang around together and are only really present with the prince and villain Von Rothbart (played by Francis Veyette) while the others are not present in the face of the swans. Events in the ballet such as when the swans are inside the reception room and when Odile (also played by Lillian Dipiazza) attends as part of Rothbart’s trick to have Siegfried fall in love with the wrong woman exemplify this merge between fantasy and reality; in this case, one is not complete without the other as both are needed in order to advance the story.

As both reality and fantasy weave into each other throughout the ballet, the combination of the background, lighting/colors, and costumes contribute a sense of obliviousness in the viewer’s perspective in the sense that it might not fully understand unless they review the plot beforehand. It may seem throughout the ballet’s duration that it runs on a visual stream of consciousness style, when in fact it is very well organized and structured to appear to bob both in and out of the dream state. This is merely a larger form of the reality and fantasy integration, as the ballet can be seen as both due to how well the viewer interprets its design. Thus, it gives us a question we can use regarding our deepest thoughts and motives: can dreams really be connected to reality? If we understand this in ourselves, we may be able to understand Wheeldon’s Swan Lake with our own interpretations.


Alexis Cerezo

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar

Bodine High School

Class of 2017

Swan Lake is one of ballet history’s prestigious performances. Its reputation has traveled through the big screen of movie theaters to poems and stories told by 21 century artists. What started as a fable turned to a theatrical phenomenon. Attending Pennsylvania’s Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake was an experience that kept me jittery from the excitement of seeing the enchanting colors and fluffy feathers of the beautiful swans.

The performance was held at the Academy of Music on March 15, 2015. Christopher Wheeldon directed their choreography following the trust of the original choreographers of Swan Lake, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. The acoustics of the theater did an amazing job of sending the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky into the hearts of viewers.

From the moment the stage opened to reveal the first scene of the dance studio I felt an automatic compulsion to the fluid movement of the ballerinas and the development of the plot. Intermissions were nail biting torture as I waited to see what would follow in the story of the forbidden love between the swan and prince. I grew a hatred for the magician and found myself wanting to yell across the theater for the prince to notice the intentions of the black swan.

None the less, the story brought tears of joy to my eyes as the beauty of the ensemble of swans moving in unison and displaying patterns between these dances left me in awe. The fluid and graceful flaps of the swans arms made it look like there were floating in air. They were beautiful and elegant with the aura of sensitivity but when synchronized and huddled together with feathers feathering around, it made them intimidating. The swans were the definition of sisterhood, comforting there heartbroken sister with circled protection and gentle movements that signified no harm.

The ending of bittersweet love left the hum of content throughout the theatre as the audience adsorbed the results of this tortured love. I saw the awestruck expression on many as we filed out of the balcony. The Pennsylvania Ballet Company yet again, struck me with another amazing performance and they did not disappoint.

Posted 9th June 2015 by PA Ballet