The original performance of Swan Lake was in 1877 by Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet. Adam Sklute said “The founder of Ballet West, Willam F. Christensen, created the first full-length American production of Swan Lake in 1940 when he was the Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet. Mr. C’s version of Swan Lake pre-dates his world-famous version of the The Nutcracker.”

February 8, 2019 was opening for the 2018-19 season performance of Ballet West’s Swan Lake at the Janet Quinney Lawson Theatre. It was a full house and the dancers seemed to feed off the energy of the audience. The last time that Ballet West performed Swan Lake they brought in a guest artist to perform the role of Odette/Odile or the White/Black Swan.  It was wonderful to see that our own Ballet West dancers were ready for the role and did a stunning job.

The evening’s lead dancers Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell were featured in the February/March issue of Pointe magazine as one of the Ballet world’s most romantic couples and this was plain to see as they dance the lead roles of Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried. I believe Beckanne has been an amazing dancer since she joined Ballet West and was excited to see that she was the lead the evening I was attending. Chase has moved up the ranks and to honest I was not really excited that he was dancing the lead, but I have to say I was not disappointed at all. He stepped up to the role in a big way, he seemed much stronger and partnered Beckanne in a way that you could see there was a connection beyond the dancing and performing. Beakanne’s change of personality as she danced the role of the evil Black Swan/Odile was pronounced and done so well you could see the sinister side come out in that mischievous smile. As she got ready to do the very difficult and famed 32 fouettes you could feel the audience on the edge or their seats in anticipation, she performed these beautifully and the audience breathed a sigh of relief with her when they were completed.

The other stand outs that evening were Trevor Naumann, Katlyn Addison and Sayaka Ohtaki in their Pas de Trois. All three dancers as a “team” and in their solo parts were powerful and yet graceful while they completed some very difficult choreography. Also Lindsay Bond, Katie Critchlow, Jenna Rae Herrera and Chelsea Keefer were strong as they performed their roles as the Cygnettes. Their timing was impeccable and the intricate details of their moves looked effortless. The lead Swan Maidens Emily Neale and Gabrielle Salvatto were regal along with the Swan Maidens.

When the third act begins it was so breathtaking to see the beautiful swan dancers come out of the fog. There were many gasps as they gracefully emerged. Swan Lake ends in tragedy as many of the fairy tales do, but in the end good wins over the evil. Rex Tilton did a wonderful job as the evil sorcerer Baron Von Rothbart. His costume was beautiful as well as all the other costumes. Ballet West’s costumes are always spot on and gorgeous. The music by Tchaikovsky was played to perfection. In fact as I write my review I listen to the music of the ballet I have just watched and I really do wish I had recordings of the Ballet West Orchestra to listen to. Jared Oaks does an incredible job. It was hard to tell any difference between Ballet West’s Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

On a personal note, opening Night at Swan Lake was also my birthday. What a gift and treat it was to have this to go and celebrate with my favorite ballet. The audience agreed as there was a standing ovation and many curtain calls. I have said this often but we are so lucky to have such incredible talent here. This is something that should not be missed. For those of you that are still trying to think of something for your Valentine, Swan Lake would be a wonderful way to celebrate the season of love. For tickets go to balletwest.org.

See all of our dance coverage here.