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Swan song for the Swan Lake

It’s been more than 130 years since Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed his first ballet Swan Lake, and choreographer Julius Reisinger presented it to audience for the first time at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. The premiere, it is said, failed to impress critics but Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake has gone on to set the benchmark forballet, universally.

Bolshoi Theatre's Swan Lake

From Russia, with love
The famous Russian ballet was screened for the first time in India at the Godrej Dance Theatre, NCPA on April 14 and 15; and they will host a final screening on April 22.

Bolshoi Theatre's Swan Lake
A still from Bolshoi Theatre’s Swan Lake, choreo-graphed by Yuri Grigorovich. PIC/ David Amrallag

The ballet is brought to India in association with Pathé Live Theatre (Paris). “Bolshoi Theatre and ballet have a very old relationship. When you think of Classical English Literature and you think of Shakespeare; likewise when you think of Classical Ballet, you think of Swan Lake and the Bolshoi Theatre,” explains Deepa Gahlot, programming head, NCPA Theatre, adding, “If Swan Lake is an example of how ballet should be written, Bolshoi Theatre shows how it should be presented.”

Written initially in four acts, The Swan Lake was fashioned from Russian folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. The ballet has a deep connect with the Bolshoi history and has been presented differently under diverse choreographers, but the on-screen version is what the company currently performs. Yuri Grigorovich revived it in 2001, incorporating scenes from older versions of the choreography.

“Bolshoi Theatre, in itself, is one of the world’s great ballet companies, and to be able to see one of the finest ballets (Swan Lake) from the land where ballet originated is a rare opportunity,” she adds. Then why not bring the company to India? “The cost and logistics of bringing a ballet company is very expensive,” she reasons.

This screening will be followed with other romantic classics by the Bolshoi Ballet -- Esmeralda, La Bayadere, La Sylphide, and the ubiquitous Romeo and Juliet -- over the next few months, the dates of which will be announced soon.

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