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Ballet Victoria spins ballet’s signature production, Swan Lake

Swan Lake runs May 17-18 at Victoria’s Royal Theatre, with tickets expected to sell out
Ballet Victoria dancers practicing for Swan Lake. (Samantha Duerksen/Black Press Media)

It’s hard to believe that Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake was initially deemed a failure when it premiered in 1877.

The ballet, now the world’s second most performed after Nutcracker, not only is one of the most popular ballets of all time but also has music and a narrative that permeates throughout our culture, including in the 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan starring Natalie Portman.

“It has that kind of power, aesthetic and beauty and then, of course, the universal theme of light and dark, love and evil,” said Paul Destrooper, artistic director of Ballet Victoria. “I think those are timeless human concepts that everybody loves to play with, and the music is absolutely brilliant.”

As Ballet Victoria prepared for its production of Swan Lake, running May 17-18, artistic director Paul Destrooper reflected on the ballet’s difficulty.

Swan Lake is famous for the 32 fouettés en tournant in Act 3, an incredible athletic feat. A fouetté rond de jambe en tournant is a difficult spin that involves a quick whipping movement of the raised leg in ballet usually accompanying a pirouette. Done 32 times, it’s one of the most difficult moves a dancer can do. These fouettés are danced at the end of the Black Swan pas de deux by the ballerina playing Odile.

The production as a whole is so challenging for ballerinas that they may use up to three pairs of pointe shoes during one performance, reads the Ballet Victoria website.

But its ballerinas work to make it look effortless, said Destrooper.

“It’s also extremely demanding at the mental level,” he said, noting the precision it takes.

“The commitment for an Olympic athlete is the same as a dancer,” he said. “Our physique is also an evolution of the art form.”

What he loves about Swan Lake is that the swan embodies both power and grace, the movement qualities of classical ballet.

“There is something about their movement that can be so warm and then so scary at times. Like how smoothly they move in the water. How graceful and powerful they are when they fly. It’s the perfect animal to embody.

“And the black swan, it’s very exciting choreography.”

Swan Lake runs May 17-18 at the Royal Theatre. Tickets start at $34 at

READ ALSO: Ballet Victoria prepare to unfold its wings with Swan Lake

Two dancers in Ballet Victoria’s upcoming production Swan Lake. (Wendi Donaldson Laird)

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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