"The Lake" has a very important place in my
career. I danced in Bourmeister's version as soon as I joined the Paris Opera's
Corps de Ballet. When Nureyev proposed his version, the majority of the Corps
de Ballet were ready to go on strike against his decision! He then had the
sense to say he was scheduling both versions in the same season. His
"Lake" soon became the Paris Opera's iconic version. This is the version
in which I first danced the role of Odette/Odile. I later revived the ballet as
Assistant Ballet-Mistress and it was following this production that Hugues Gall
appointed me Ballet Mistress.
The defining feature of the Corps de Ballet in Swan Lake is its homogeneity. A homogeneity which above all must not be mechanical. There is poetry to be found in resemblance and harmony. In the way we use our arms, for example, or catch the light. It is very difficult to be truly as one, identical to the person in front of you. For this reason it's a very difficult ballet for the dancers. Not only do they have painful poses but they also have to pay constant attention to the others in order to be as one, to breathe as one. They play an essential role, their presence is crucial to the beauty and magic of the ballet. I try to accompany every gesture with an intention just as I do when working with the soloists. When they surround Odette, their round is accompanied by a feeling of tenderness and their poses must always suggest humility. In my opinion, each swan represents a double of Odette.
At first, I work on the steps, the geometric lines and
symmetries which form the choreography's skeleton. It is essential to know the
steps to be able to add the "flesh" afterwards. They have to be
learnt very quickly because we have little rehearsal time: places and positions
are agreed upon beforehand. When we arrive in the studio, each dancer already
knows his or her place and his or her
During rehearsals, I go over all the versions danced
during Rudolf's lifetime. His first version, performed in Vienna, is
illuminating and shares similarities with the one created for the Paris Opera.
I draw on archives, especially films, and try to find inspiration in direct
sources to reconstruct the choreography and be as close as possible to
The work of transmission is twofold: to remain faithful to the original version whilst adapting it to the dancers' physiques and personalities. Every Ballet Master proposes his or her own Swan Lake. Reviving a ballet is as much a question of fidelity to the original version as of personal choice.
Your reading: The Swans of the "Lake"