Swan Lake

Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreography by Robert Curran

Review by Valerie Canon

Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Valerie Canon. All rights reserved

Photo by Sam English.


Louisville Ballet has introduced a new Swan Lake by Artistic Director Robert Curran. Over the years, numerous choreographers have reinvented Swan Lake. Some, such as Matthew Bourne’s for the Sadler Well’s Ballet, to great acclaim; and some, such as Graeme Murphy’s for the Australian Ballet, to great controversy. Reinventing a classic is no easy task. It’s impossible to predict how an audience will react to something they are so familiar with being removed from its traditional staging. Louisville Ballet’s newest version is interesting, but misses the mark of a great new work.

The new staging keeps much of the familiar Petipa choreography with a few updates scattered throughout. The major changes are the introduction of lasers instead of sets and a principal character, the combining of the original four-act ballet into two acts, and very structured, haute couture-like costumes. The lasers, though a neat effect and efficiently executed by Louisville visual artists Ryan Daly and Garrett Crabtree, were reminiscent of laser shows made popular in the early 1970’s. But the lights were sometimes a distraction from the performances of the dancers. The reliance on the lasers to set the scenes, and the condensing of the ballet to two acts, caused some confusion in the transitions between scenes. The first act moved from the court directly into Prince Siegfried’s (male lead) relationship with Odette (female lead/white swan). It was abrupt and lacked clarity.

The costumes could have come directly from the set of Project Runway. However, they did not create a cohesive picture. The males in the production wore military-style tunics. The women wore midriff bearing tops and skirts in the first scene, traditional platter tutu’s in the second scene, and sheer black head coverings for the corps de ballet in the third scene. The combination of so many new elements was a lot to absorb.

The dancing by the company was very good. Natalia Ashikhmina was a frail, beautiful Odette, and cunning, bewitching as Odile. Mark Kreiger was a perfectly tortured Prince Siegfried. Helen Daigle was perfectly cast as the Queen and wonderfully played the part of an overbearing mother. Michael Hogan as the Jester had a birdlike quality to his movement, which made for an interesting connection between the court and the swans.

This performance was near the beginning of the ballets season. Conquering the feat of clean execution was quite a challenge and was met exceptionally well. The scene at the beginning of act two (traditionally act three) was the highlight of the evening. There were stand-out performances from Christy Corbitt as the Spanish Princess, Ashley Thursby as the Hungarian Princess, and Erica De La O as the Neapolitan Princess.

The narrative has been altered from the familiar tale; without the aid of the program notes, it is confusing. The choreographer’s re-imagined ending was unexpected, but was as tragic as the original. It was a bold and very interesting choice.

Overall, the new version was overwhelming and perhaps filled with too many revisions. That said, having the opportunity to experience a new Swan Lake was an adventure

Swan Lake

October 14, 2015 @ 8 PM
October 15, 2015 @ 2 PM & 8 PM

Louisville Ballet
The W.L. Lyons Brown Theatre
315 West Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202



head-shotValerie Canon is an actor, director, dancer, model, and choreographer based in the Greater Louisville area. Mrs. Canon received her BFA in ballet performance from Oklahoma University in 2004, and has performed in ballets around the country as a principal, soloist, and corps de ballet member. She recently directed Unhindered and Ungendered: A Killer Show, for Wayward Actors Company in January 2016.