Like professional sports teams, ballet companies go through ups and downs when it comes to talent. While the Steelers have struggled lately with a lack of it, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has been loaded with it. Most impressive have been PBT's major story ballets. In 2012, the company wowed audiences with Giselle, and followed up with an engaging Cinderella this past April. Now it offers another classic, Swan Lake, to be performed with the orchestra Feb. 13-16.
Last performed by PBT in 2010, Swan Lake tells the story of Prince Siegfried, who falls for swan-girl Odette, and what happens when villain Von Rothbart tricks Siegfried into pledging his undying love to an alluring imposter.
Apart from a fantastical plot, the ballet in four acts, with choreography by Marius Petipa (restaged for PBT by artistic director Terrence Orr) is the very definition of ballet's traditional beauty and grace. It also contains one of the most plum dual roles for a ballerina: Odette, the demure white swan, and her counterpart Odile, the seductive black swan. The role requires excellent technical ability and stamina as well as superbly nuanced acting skills.
CP spoke with three of the four women who will dance Odette/Odile.
A veteran of the roles, principal dancer Julia Erickson (performing 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13, and 2 p.m. Feb. 15) sees the stark archetypes as representing the duality of human nature. "Odette is vulnerable and scared, but exhibits great strength despite her fragility, and Odile is a force but also shows insecurity at times," says Erickson.
First-time soloist Amanda Cochrane (2 p.m. Feb. 16) concurs but emphasizes the roles' physical demands. "The fluidity and control in Odette's movement is so beautiful, but at times can be difficult to grasp," says Cochrane. "Likewise, Odile's 32 fouette turns in Act III can be pretty strenuous."
Principal dancer Alexandra Kochis (8 p.m. Feb. 15) sees Odile as a creation of Von Rothbart. "She is a spell, a creature, manufactured for the sole purpose of bewitching Siegfried. She isn't so much an entity of her own as a reflection of what the prince wants to see," says Kochis.
The fourth dancer is principal dancer Christine Schwaner (8 p.m., Feb 14).
Whatever a given dancer's take, PBT's new production appears destined to be a winner.