'Swan Lake' takes flight at PNB

By Winter Dorval - Staff Reporter

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Swan Lake is a heart-wrenching tale of unexpected love that takes flight on the stage of McCaw Hall.

Swan Lake, a classic tale of love and loss, was composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875.

A handsome prince, danced by Seth Orza, is told by the queen, Margaret Mullin, to marry and take the throne. He spots a group of Swans flying by and grabs his crossbow to pursue them with his friends.

Upon reaching a lake he witnesses one swan, danced by Noelani Pantastico, turn into a maiden. He discovers she is the queen of swans, and that she has been cursed by a sorcerer named Rothbart, danced by William Lin-Yee. 

She transforms into a swan every day, but the curse can be broken if someone pledges their love to her. They eventually fall in love, and he invites her to a ball where he is deceived by Rothbart and tricked into betraying his love. 

The set, designed by Ming Cho Lee, is very distinctive.

"He doesn't really do painted drops, he does pieces and mass. So, we have here large structural pieces suggesting the palace, suggesting ruins at the lakeside," said Audience Education Manager Doug Fullington.

It was challenging for the engineering staff to build the set, he said.

"I believe the conversation between Kent and Ming went along the lines of 'because the story has sort of one foot in realty and one foot in a fantastic or supernatural world, that the scenic pieces could suggest that by being slightly off'," Fullington said.

During the second act, we see a pas de trois when two women and a man dance together, danced by Angelica Generosa, Madison Taylor, and Kyle Davis.

"The Pas De Tois in Swan Lake is very beautiful. These are very tough dances but very athletic," Fullington said.

The costumes, designed by Paul Tazewell, have vibrant colors with loose but heavy material, which emphasizes the movement in their jumps and turns.

The prince wears bright colors; this makes the swans' all-white costumes stand out.

Over 20 swans are on the stage in this performance.

The swans' skirts are stiffer than any other dancers which helps give the illusion of feathers and set them apart.

The choreography, arranged by Kent Stowell, uses the whole stage with Jetés and pirouettes.

There is lots of motion from one side of the stage to the other, with dancers moving across the stage, or in circular patterns across it.

The group dances are seamlessly executed.

The lighting on the stage became darker and brought out shadows to show the audience it was evening, and a yellow moon floated behind the stage.

During the swans' lake scenes, mist floats onto the stage, and a dark blue night sky stretches behind her.

When Swan Lake was written ballet music was thought to be delicate but Tchaikovsky used a full orchestra with alot of percussion instead of a smaller group, said Fullington.

The percussion in the scores adds depth to the music, and helps with the immersive feel of the performance.

This perfomrance is running through Sunday, Feb. 11.

Tickets range from $44 to $174, but it is almost sold out.

The address for the McCaw Hall is 321 Mercer St., Seattle.

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