Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake can be described as a staple of the ballet world, ubiquitous in a way that makes it beloved across many cultures and generations. But like the others, it runs the risk of treading the fine line between classic and commonplace. The secret is in making it so special that people find reasons to come back again and again, picking up more followers along the way. Entrez, Gen Horiuchi and the Saint Louis Ballet.
Since its first performance in 2005 with Horiuchi at the helm as artistic director, the Saint Louis Ballet’s production of Swan Lake has steadily grown in popularity, requiring a new, larger venue to accommodate an expanding audience. This year, Swan Lake will be held at the Touhill Performing Arts Center, with four performances from Friday, April 27, to Sunday, April 29.
The ballet itself—ethereal and tranquil in its nature—features ballerinas in their element: the long neck, graceful arms, curved back and high-extension legs—movements that these classical dancers practice on a daily basis. Horiuchi credits the popularity of this ballet to the quality of these movements, saying, “It’s the beauty of it—that’s what the ballerina’s training is all about.”
So what makes this the must-not-miss performance of Swan Lake? First, it’s another opportunity to ‘shop locally.’ Locally driven organizations and businesses are the life blood of the St. Louis region, but often overlooked in the ‘locavore’ initiative is the arts. “All these dancers live here,” Horiuchi notes. “We like to emphasize that. We don’t import dancers.”
Second, if you’ve seen the movie Black Swan, you already know the rich and sordid back-story. This film has helped bring the art of classical ballet to the forefront of pop culture. You won’t want to miss Tanya Straumann and Pamela Swaney, double-cast in their role as the Swan Queen, on a mission to break the spell of the Black Swan, played by Lori Wilson and Kate Rouzer. The Black Swan coda features 32 fouettés en tournant (a series of quick whips and turns), which Horiuchi describes as the “highlight of the ballet."
Third, a spoiler alert: Horiuchi guarantees a happy ending. Each production of Swan Lake adapts its own ending, and many of these— possibly some of the most familiar—end unhappily. “I choose happy endings,” says Horiuchi, waxing sentimental on the power of love. “It’s just how to end.”
The Saint Louis Ballet also is hosting a benefit on April 27 at the Touhill. Black Swan: A Tribute will feature a cocktail reception, dinner, admission to the 8 p.m. performance of Swan Lake and a dessert reception. For more information, visit stlouisballet.org.