Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Peter Tchaikovsky
A history of Swan Lake reads much like a Russian novel…intimidating in length, complexity and cast of characters. We are perhaps best served to note only that for dance audiences around the world Swan Lake epitomizes classical ballet. Musically and dramatically it is the most popular of ballets and, in some form, is standard in the repertoire of every company in the world. But that extraordinary popularity was not easily won. The original four-act work, produced in 1877, at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, was indifferently received and had only four performances. The next production, in 1894, which was of the second act along, fared somewhat better, and it is from the second act that Balanchine’s version is derived.
Although Balanchine owed something to his choreographic predecessors, Marius Petipa and Leo Ivanov, there is little evidence of the original work remaining. This version of Act II, which is a story in itself and generally thought to be the most beautiful and thus most often produced, was staged by Balanchine for the New York City Ballet in 1951. The drama has been heightened by the addition of music form the fourth act. The prince’s solo for this production was choreographed by Todd Bolender.