BYU Ballet to perform ‘Swan Lake,’ ‘Cinderella’

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Jaren Wilkey/BYU
Kaley Johnson poses as the black swan for BYU Theatre Ballet’s 2014 production of “Swan Lake.” (Courtesy Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

Princesses will dust off their tiaras and put on their slippers this winter as the Contemporary and Theatre Ballet Companies of the BYU Department of Dance bring familiar fables to life in “Fairy Tales and Fantasy.”

While dance styles and music change, the most beloved pieces become fixtures that remain in the world of dance for decades. The scenes of “Fairy Tales and Fantasy” are good examples.

The performances will feature scenes from a number of classical ballets and fairy tales such as “Swan Lake,” “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Snow White” and “Cinderella.”

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, a Russian composer, wrote “Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Beauty.” Both ballets are among the most iconic in existence due to the number of repeated performances. Those who are unfamiliar with the actual ballets would likely recognize the famous melodies.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Dance, Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write some of his ballets, while others were works of personal passion. Tradition attributes him as saying, “Truly there would be reason to go mad were it not for music.” The legacy of Tchaikovsky’s music lives for millions today through both music and dance.

Gary Rosen, author of “Swan Lake: An Historical Appreciation,” described how “Swan Lake” was met with little enthusiasm when first performed. However, persistent performance and tweaking of the choreography have made the role of The Princess, or Odette, one of the most sought after in theater ballet.

Provo resident Grace Kessler attended ballet classes as a girl and noted her appreciation for the role.

“It is an honor to play Odette,” Kessler said. “I remember dreaming about getting that role during the long hours of technique classes.”

The role of Odette is physically rigorous and requires several continuous scenes of performance, but as Kessler noted, it is all worth it because, “Odette always has the prettiest tutu.”

Christina Wagner, also of Provo, tries to attend every performance of a Tchaikovsky ballet. Her mother took her to see the ballets as she was growing up in Salt Lake. She still connects the performances with her mother, who passed away several years ago.  Wagner noted that there is a special fulfillment in carrying on the traditions with her own family.

“My mother took me to see ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Swan Lake’ on several occasions growing up,” Wagner said. “My mom loved classical music, so I was familiar with a lot of the tunes but absolutely loved seeing the ballerinas dance along with it.”

“Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Beauty” have also inspired different film adaptations, both cartoon and musical in variety. The ballet “Cinderella” was first performed in the 1940s and likely inspired portions of the Disney film, particularly with regard to the use of comical stepsisters. The opposite is true in the case of “Snow White,” a modern ballet that draws design influence heavily from the Disney film.

The enduring nature of fairy tales may be due to their unique way of returning a person to the magic of their childhoods. However, watching these familiar tales expressed through music and movement can be a new experience for lovers of both ballet and fairy tales.

The Theatre Ballet and Contemporary companies of the BYU Department of Dance will present “Fairy Tales and Fantasy” from January 29–31. There are two performance options: a contemporary program on the 29th and 30th, and two performances on Saturday the 31st. Children who attend either of the Saturday performances will be invited to dance on stage with some of the characters. Prices are $15.00 for adults and $8.00 for children. Visit arts.byu.edu to purchase tickets.

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