MU updates Tchaikovsky classic

Abigail Eyler, Contributing Writer

The Mercyhurst Dance Department is set to perform the Tchaikovsky ballet “Swan Lake” with performances Nov. 12 – 14 and Nov. 19 – 21.

“Swan Lake,” one of the most famous ballets, is set to music composed in 1876 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The ballet premiered in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre. It was originally choreographed by Julius Reisinger and performed by the Bolshoi Ballet Company.

Initially inspired by Russian and German folklore, Odette, a princess, is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer.

The Mercyhurst Civic Orchestra, conducted by Professor Jonathan Moser, will perform the musical score for the ballet. All new costumes will be custom-made for the show by Claudia Katherine.

Roles of the ballet include: Odette, also known as The Swan Queen, The Swan Princess, the princess who was transformed into a swan; Prince Siegfried, the handsome prince who falls in love with Odette; Baron von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer who has enchanted Odette; Odile, Rothbart’s daughter; Benno von Sommerstern, also known as just Benno, the prince’s friend; The Queen, the prince’s mother; Wolfgang, Prince Siegfried’s tutor; Leading Swans; and Cygnets.

According to Professor Jennifer McNamara MFA, Assistant Professor of Dance, the presentation of the ballet will highlight the idea of gender, particularly how masculinity and femininity are presented in dance. McNamara said, “The swans’ choreography, with the lush port de bras, is often seen as the ultimate representation of feminine movement ideals in dance.”

The casting choices are going to reflect this conversation and how movement should not be seen as inherently feminine or masculine, embracing modern ideas of gender.

Another important element of the production is the controversial ending and troubling expression of traditional gender roles. Traditionally, Odette and Siegfried jump into the lake to live together for an eternity. However, McNamara said, “We’re making some shifts to these parts of the story, drawing on the Irish folktale, The Children of the Lir and being cognizant of power dynamics between characters of the opposite, as well as the same, gender presentations.”

This combination of stories will change the choreography and staging, but it will still be cohesive to the main plot. Additionally, SafeNet, an organization whose focus is the support of domestic violence victims, will benefit from the event’s fundraising.

The roles of Odette, Odile and von Rothbart will be danced by students along with all the soloist and corps de ballet roles. Siegfried will be performed by a guest artist. Some of the extras are still being actively casted for male students and faculty, so be sure to contact Professor McNamara if interested.

Other important things to note is the change in language used to describe certain roles. First, the role of Odile is often referred to as the “Black Swan” and Odette is referred to as the “White Swan”.

While the intention of the color of the two swans is to differentiate from good and evil, the binary understanding of color and disposition can be understood inappropriately. These characters’ names will be altered to create more inclusive and respectful roles. Also, the roles of “Big Swans” and “Little Swans” will be renamed as “Leading Swans” and “Cygnets”.

While some small changes have been made to promote diversity in the classic work, it is still the timeless piece inspired by the original Tchaikovsky score.

The show is sure to excite with its fabulous choreography, custom costumes and beautiful music.

Make sure to reserve your free student ticket today and support your fellow Mercyhurst students as they perform their hearts out on stage.