The Russian Ballet Theatre brings ‘Swan Lake’ to life like never before

Swan Lake
Swan Lake
Courtesy of Russian Ballet Theatre

You may have seen or heard of “Swan Lake,” but never like this. 

The Russian Ballet Theatre recently announced their tour of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic show that will be stopping in 52 cities across the United States, with four local performances in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Tickets are now on sale for the dates, which include Sunday, Feb. 13, in Newark, New Jersey, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Tuesday, Feb. 15, in Trenton at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial; Wednesday, Feb. 16, in Sewell, South Jersey, at Investors Bank Performing Arts Center; and Thursday, Feb. 17, in Reading at the Santander Performing Arts Center. “Swan Lake” will be hitting the stage in each city for one night only.

“It is amazing to be back on tour. It is hard to describe the amazing feeling of being back on stage, being able to share the art and passion with the audience, seeing little children dance during the intermission, trying to repeat the Prima’s movements, hearing ovations at the end of the show. It is such a wonderful and fulfilling life we live,” says co-producer Gulya Hartwick.

“The audience of the East Coast has always been unique,” she adds. “It is such a peculiar mix of intellect and straightforwardness, we always are more nervous coming here than to anywhere else. We couldn’t bring the show into Philadelphia city proper this time due to scheduling conflicts, but we tried to come as close as possible and just over the bridge in South Jersey. For next time, however, Philadelphia is top of our list.”

Swan LakeAmal Khalikov

Hartwick also goes on to talk about the unique style of Russian ballet, which is based on the Vaganova method named by dancer Agrippina Vaganova.

As Hartwick puts is, this method is internationally recognized and is marked by the fusion of the soulful passion of Russian ballet, the classical French style, the athleticism of the Italian method and elements of the Romantic era. It focuses on the proper performance of ballet by giving equal importance to both arms and legs. The Balanchine Method is the way of teaching dancers at the School of American Ballet and focuses on very quick movements coupled with a more open use of the upper body.

This is the first time that the Russian Ballet will be hitting the road since 2019, and Prima Ballerina Olga Kifyak will dance the lead roles of Odette (The White Swan) and Odile (The Black Swan). The cast also includes Evgeny Svetlitsa as Prince Siegfried, Mikhail Ovcharov as Jester and Vasili Bogdan as Rothbart. 

“Although we are telling the classic story of ‘Swan Lake,’ there are tweaks here and there that make the show new and exciting,” Hartwick explained. “We have all new choreography. Usually, there is one jester, we have five of them. We did what we could to make the production more lively and more colorful.”

Swan LakeMIKHAIL MOROZOV

“Swan Lake” takes one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular scores and mixes it with a love story inspired by Russian and German folk tales. The description reads: On his 21st birthday, Prince Siegfried is told he must marry from an array of princesses selected for him. Upset that he is not being allowed to marry for love, Siegfried escapes into the night where he spies and becomes smitten with the beautiful swan princess Odette. Will the two be able to break the curse that has made her a swan or will the conniving sorcerer Rothbart thwart their plans to be together forever?

To re-work the classic tale, choreographer Nadezhda Kalinina has retouched the oldest St. Petersburg version of the ballet, adding her vision which includes a new prologue offering an explanation for the wrath of the evil sorcerer Rothbart. RBT’s international ballet corps also has drawn talent from ten different countries for this new tour and it will all be performed against the backdrop of hand-painted sets and in 150 new hand-sewn costumes from Sergei Novikov. 

This production also puts the main dancer, Prima Ballerina Olga Kifyak, into the spotlight playing both the Black and White Swan. Most productions traditionally feature two dancers taking on the feat. 

“Swan Lake is a challenging ballet to dance. I dance two roles, opponent to each other. In Act One, you see gentle Odette — the purity, modesty, perfection. So, the dance has to look light and effortless, but that takes a lot — the more delicate it seems, the more substantial power it takes. And then, in Act 3, Odile comes into the picture. She is a mean character — insidious, sarcastic, reaching for her goal,” Kifyak said in a statement.

“Almost all theater have two different dancers playing Odette/Odile. I like dancing in both of these roles,” she continued. “It is fascinating to have an opportunity to be two completely different characters. The acting part is crucial. The audience must believe you; there can’t be any movement, mimics, or facial expression flaws of the character.”

Swan LakeCourtesy of Russian Ballet Theatre

Tickets are available at russianballettheatre.com/tickets and also by visiting Ticketmaster. All venues offer onsite or nearby parking, or are accessible by public transportation. For more information, visit Russian Ballet Theatre’s official website at russianballettheatre.com

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