Review: The Russian National Ballet enchants with “Swan Lake”


The Russian National Ballet performing “Swan Lake.”

Lydia Wede

Lancelot and Elaine weren’t the only swans on campus Thursday.

Children in flowy dresses channeling their inner princess, students in multiple layers facing the cold and other Ames residents looking for a night of relaxing entertainment flocked to Stephens Auditorium to witness The Russian National Ballet: “Swan Lake.”

Throughout the entire night, it was clear to see the amount of athleticism required to dance ballet, yet no dancer quite encapsulated that visual quite like the role of the Court Jester. The Court Jester stole the spotlight each time he appeared on stage. Each leap seemed to reach several feet into the air, while his pirouettes blurred with speed. Additionally, he was the only dancer to incorporate gymnastic tricks into his dance, such as somersaults and aerials. 

The Court Jester was the complete opposite of Prince Siegfried. While Prince Siegfried had many impressive displays of skill, many times the attention was focused on another performer. While he was dancing, many times the focus was on other men such as the Court Jester or Baron Von Rothbart. It was frustrating to want to watch the prince perform while he was hidden in the back or standing behind a female ballerina.

While some dancers may not have had a large amount of spotlight, their costumes certainly did. Each costume had intricate details, whether it be the embroidered greenery on the nobles’ bodices or the sparkles highlighting the white swans, each costume clearly identified the role of the character.

However, because the swans had white detail on their white tutus, it was extremely difficult to find the prima ballerina Odette among the corps de ballet, or the members of the group dance, until she came to center stage.  

Speaking of the corps de ballet, it is no exaggeration to say the ballerinas took up the entire stage. It was awe-inspiring to see them coordinating to create the effect of a flock of swans or a celebration within a castle. At times there were moments when one or two ballerinas moved their arm a split second too late or began their jump a millisecond early, but with choreography as intricate as they were performing, a few mistakes are to be expected. 

In the performance of “Swan Lake,” ballet is used to tell a love story without words. Though the dancers use pantomime, costumes and body language to explain a scene, they do have a few tricks up their sleeves. The most prominent was music. “Swan Lake” was composed from 1871 to 1875 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The score was instrumental in leading the audience to make assumptions regarding the morality of the characters with a soft, delicate reoccurring motif for every Odette reference, and harsh, upsetting music for the character of Baron Von Rothbart.

The music also led the emotional turmoil and panic within many of the scenes. Another tool used by the performance was lighting. During castle scenes, there was a yellow filter placed over the lighting to create a warm environment, whereas, during the tranquil lake landscapes, there was a soft, blue filter. A surprising feature was the use of a strobe light during the reveal of the evil hijinks of Baron Von Rothbart and his villainous daughter. 

Overall, audience members were enchanted by this performance from the Russian National Ballet.