Weekend Highlights

Published April 15, 2013
Going Places

A Parent’s Review: Swan Lake at PNB

by Ruth Schubert
seattle child article photo
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Carla Körbes and Karel Cruz in Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake.
Photo © Angela Sterling.

seattle child article photo
Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake.
Photo © Angela Sterling.

I have reviewed a number of Pacific Northwest Ballet productions for Seattle’s Child, and each time I’ve looked for similarities to the Nutcracker and the kid-pleasing elements that make it a family favorite. There are the humorous stepsisters in Cinderella, the fairy-tale slumber and awakening of Sleeping Beauty.

Swan Lake doesn’t have any of those toys-coming-to-life or fairy tale qualities to it but, oh, it has those swans – dozens of them in their short, sparkly white tutus, weaving in and out of each other and fluttering their arms. Swan Lake is quintessential classical ballet.

In his program notes, PNB’s Artistic Director, Peter Boal, tells the story of his grandmother’s almost accidental introduction to ballet when she bought a ticket to see some dancer she had never heard of by the name of Anna Pavlova. His grandparents shared their love of ballet, in turn, with the 5-year-old Boal, first taking him to a performance of Swan Lake.

It struck me that Swan Lake is the perfect ballet for sharing a love of the art form with a child or teen – not because it has familiar fairy tale story lines or magical growing Christmas trees, but simply because it is perhaps the most beautiful and well-known of classics.

Since it premiered in 1877, Swan Lake, with its haunting Tchaikovsky score, has been performed around the world with some of ballet’s most famous performers in the lead roles. In 2010, it inspired the movie Black Swan with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.

I took my 10-year-old daughter on opening night. It is a three-hour production, including the two 20-minute intermissions, so it's not for the too young or too squirmy. It’s always a good idea to look at PNB’s Tips for Attending with Children before you come to the show. And there are several great videos, including rehearsal footage, to watch with your kids, too. 

There are five sets of Princes and Swans scheduled during the run. I was entirely captivated by the spectacularly graceful Carla Korbes and Valentino-like Karel Cruz. The First Act, a party at which Prince Siegfried’s mother lets him know it’s time to marry, includes six “little girls” danced by PNB Ballet School students, which is always fun for kids to see.

It is the Second Act, where Siegfried stumbles upon the human-like flock in the woods that defines Swan Lake. Two dozen swans flutter about, evoking the graceful beauty of these noble birds with their arms as much as their legs. Odette, queen of these bewitched maidens, who can only take human form at night, emerges and she and Siegfried fall in love. Siegfried vows to break the sorcerer’s spell by being faithful to Odette forever. 

But the sorcerer won’t be so easily foiled and attends the Grand Ball in Act Three with his coquettish daughter, Odile, who looks so very much like Odette that Siegfried falls under her spell and vows to marry her. Act Four is Odette and Siegfried’s tearful goodbye, for once Siegfried asked for Odile’s hand in marriage Odette is forever bound to the bewitched swans. 

The sets, the costumes and the orchestra are top-notch, supporting the superior dancing that appears on stage. We are fortunate to have a company of PNB’s caliber here in Seattle so that we can share the wonders of ballet with the children in our lives.

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If You Go...

Where: McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle.

When: Thursday, April 18, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, April 19, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 20, 1 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, April 21, 1 and 7 p.m. Matinees include crafts and dance classes.

Admission: $28 to $173. 
Age 25 and younger tickets $15 (two for $25) on April 18 and 19. Teen Tix, $5 (available 90 minutes before curtain time; info at teentix.org)

Contact: PNB Box Office, 206-441-2424; www.pnb.org/Season/12-13/SwanLake

Additional Tip: Avoid lines by ordering treats for intermission before the start of the ballet.