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Cue The National Ballet o Canada

wan Lake


Working Rehearsal

Choreography by James Kudelka


Welcome to Cuesheet, a performance guide published by the Education Department of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C. This Cuesheet is designed to help you enjoy the working rehearsal of Swan Lake.

A ballet slipper marks topics for discussion or activities you may want to do with other students, friends, or family.

Music by

Pyotr Ilyich TchaikovsKY

At this working rehearsal, members of the National Ballet of Canada perfect their work before the evening performance. Refer to the insert for background information about ballet and working rehearsals.

The evil Rothbart takes on many guises in the National Ballet’s re-interpretation of Swan Lake. Featured here is Rothbart as a winged creature. Later he appears in disguise as a swamp man, and finally, in a muscular, human form. PHOTO Š BRUCE ZINGER

Getting Ready to See

wan lake The mythical story of a prince


Main Characters

The Story

Act 2: The Misty Marsh

Rothbart—an evil, supernatural creature


While separated from Benno, Siegfried encounters Rothbart, who appears as a swamp man. At first, Rothbart angrily confronts Siegfried, but then encourages him to dance with the white swan Odette. Seeing that Siegfried and Odette have fallen in love, Rothbart separates them.

Siegfried—the prince The Queen—Siegfried’s mother Benno—Siegfried’s friend Odette—a beautiful enchanted swan Odile—Odette’s wicked double

foreboding—a feeling that something bad will happen melancholy—sadly serious or gloomy pas de deux—French term for dance for two


othbart sets the foreboding tone for the story by plunging his sword into the ground.

Act 1: The Royal Hunting Ground On his birthday, the melancholy Siegfried returns from hunting with his knights. His mother, the queen, tells him that he must choose a bride at the next night’s ball, further dampening his spirits. What begins as lighthearted dancing to cheer the prince turns violent. Seeing swans overhead, Siegfried’s friend Benno urges him to go hunting.

Act 3: The Royal Ballroom At the ball, four princesses—Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, and Italian—try unsuccessfully to win the prince’s favor. Then Rothbart, disguised as a man, enters escorting Odile, a swan princess dressed all in black. With Rothbart’s encouragement, Odile charms Siegfried with her resemblance to Odette and her dancing. Believing she is Odette, Siegfried chooses her as his bride. Siegfried’s innocent betrayal of Odette immediately unleashes a catastrophic flood.

Act 4: The Lakeside Siegfried flees to the lake. Odette finds him and forgives him. But the lovers’ joy is cut short as Rothbart intervenes and summons a violent storm. He overpowers Siegfried. As the storm clears, Odette is left alone to mourn over the dead Siegfried.

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In their pas de deux (pronounced PAH-d’-DEUH), Odette and Prince Siegfried show their love for one another. Notice the movements suggestive of birds, such as wing-like arm gestures, fluttering movements, and lifts and turns evoking lightness and flight.

who alls in love with a beauti ul swan Classic Romantic Ballet Defined


hen people talk about classic romantic ballets, they usually mean fulllength ballets from the late 1800s—like Swan Lake. These ballets often share similar characteristics:

2 Supernatural elements, like fairies, magicians, and mythical creatures

using both ensembles and soloists

2 Tutus (either short or mid-length) for women

2 Divertissements (dee-vehr-teesMAHN), a collection of dances not directly connected to the plot

2 Pantomine, or gestures that


2 Stories of unattainable and tragic love 2 Elegant and light-footed dancing

One of the themes of Swan Lake is good versus evil, a theme that can be seen in the black and white costumes.Watch for other themes including love and forgiveness.


An Evolving Classic When Swan Lake debuted more than 125 years ago in Russia, it flopped. But in 1895, Russian choreographer Marius Petipa (PEH-tee-PAH) and his assistant Lev Ivanov reworked the ballet into the version now considered traditional. Since then, many have approached the ballet with a spirit of reinvention, often making changes ranging from costumes to story details. But two aspects remain constant—the overall story and much of the original music by renowned Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky (chy-KOFF-skee).

A Fresh Look aT swan Lake The National Ballet reinterpreted the ballet by adding…

2 a prologue 2 dancing and prominence to Rothbart’s role

2 decay and brutality to the royal court 2 a full chorus of black swans 2 a flood 2 an ending in which the lovers are separated

Double Dancing The challenging roles of Odette and Odile are danced by the same ballerina. This ballerina embodies two very different characters plus performs great physical feats, best demonstrated by Odile’s 32 consecutive fouettes (fu-ET-tay)—spinning turns done on one leg—in Act 3. Before the performance, list how the dancer might make the two characters different. Afterward, compare the list with what you saw.

The People Behind the Ballet About The National Ballet of Canada Based in Toronto, the National Ballet is known for its productions of full-length classic ballets like Swan Lake along with many modern ballets. Karen Kain, a former principal dancer who once performed the lead female role with Russian ballet superstar Rudolf Nureyev as the Prince, now serves as artistic director of the 60-member company.

About the Choreographer, James Kudelka For any ballet, the choreographer is the mastermind, determining the interpretation of the ballet and planning the dance movements and other details. Swan Lake’s mastermind is James Kudelka, a Canadian-born choreographer who started dancing ballet at age 13. Kudelka’s choreography is known for the way he applies modern movement styles to classic tradition.

Resources You may want to… read: Balanchine, George, and Francis Mason. 101 Stories of the Great Ballets. NY: Anchor Books, 1989. Greskovic, Robert. Ballet 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving the Ballet. NY: Hyperion, 1998.

go online:

listen to: Tchaikovsky, Pyotr: Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake. EMI Classics B0000CE7H1, 2004. Performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra (conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch).

Stephen A. Schwarzman Chairman Michael M. Kaiser President Darrell M. Ayers Vice President, Education


Cuesheets are funded in part through the support of the Estate of Joseph R. Applegate; Butz Foundation; the Carter and Melissa Cafritz Charitable Trust; Chevy Chase Bank; Citigroup Foundation; the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities; Ms. Nancy J. Davis; Fannie Mae Foundation; the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation; the Kennedy Center Corporate Fund; The Jacob and Charlotte Lehrman Foundation; the Mackintosh Foundation; Newman’s Own; Publix Supermarkets, Inc.; Dr. Deborah Rose and Dr. Jan A. J. Stolwijk; the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts; Prince Charitable Trusts; the Hattie M. Strong Foundation; and the U.S. Department of Education. Swan Lake Cuesheet Editorial and Art Director: Lisa Resnick Writer: Marcia Friedman Designer: Carla Badaracco

Watch for Odile’s confident dancing as she enchants the Prince and compare it to Odette’s dancing. Also watch for how the production shows the flood.

How Would You End It?

A Closer Look

All versions of Swan Lake do not end the same. Some choreographers choose a happier ending, like having the lovers uniting in the afterlife and Rothbart being destroyed. Try being the choreographer. Decide how you would end the story and what movements you would use to demonstrate it. Share your ideas with your classmates and practice a few of the movements.

At the rehearsal—which will last two to three hours— you’ll be sitting in the second tier of the theater. Please feel free to bring binoculars if you have them. They will help you to better see the dancers’ expressions and gestures.

Cuesheets are produced by ARTSEDGE, a program of the Kennedy Center Education Department and a member of the MarcoPolo Consortium. For more information about the performing arts and arts education, visit our Web sites: Questions, comments? Write us at © 2006,The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts The U.S. Department of Education supports approximately one-third of the budget for the Kennedy Center Education Department. The contents of this Cuesheet do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

The National Ballet of Canada | Swan Lake: Working Rehearsal  

The National Ballet of Canada performs Kudelka's triumphant full-length version of Swan Lake. This classic ballet tells the story of a princ...

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