Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Washington Ballet to Make Historic Debut of Swan Lake

Misty Copeland & Char Prescott (Photo: Theo Kossenas)

From our friends at The Washington Ballet...

The Washington Ballet to Make Historic Debut of Swan Lake with Renowned Ballerina Misty Copeland and Premiere of Partnership with Evermay Chamber Orchestra

The Washington Ballet (TWB) will lift the curtain in April 2015 with a series of firsts during its upcoming production of Swan Lake, including the U.S. premiere of star ballerina Misty Copeland in the leading roles of Odette/Odile. The production will also launch performances by musical artists of S&R Foundation's Evermay Chamber Orchestra in The Washington Ballet's first-ever full length production of this quintessential ballet.

"It is history in the making," according to Septime Webre, Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet. "For the first time in the organization's 70 years, The Washington Ballet (TWB) will present Swan Lake, but not without a few other notable 'firsts' with this ballet," Webre adds.

Joining TWB in this endeavor is American Ballet Theatre (ABT) soloist and ballet celebrity Misty Copeland. In the recent years she has been on a meteoric rise to stardom as one of the nation's most celebrated ballerinas, only the second African-American ballerina to be promoted to soloist at American Ballet Theatre. Copeland also has both The New York Times best-selling memoir, Life in Motion and children's book Firebird on the literary circuit and she's the worldwide face of Under Armour's "I Will What I Want" campaign. Recently she was a guest judge on the television show So You Think You Can Dance and was appointed by President Obama to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

This production of Swan Lake is also the launch of a creative collaboration between the Washington Ballet and the S&R Foundation's Evermay Chamber Orchestra, which will perform the famed and beloved Tchaikovsky score, ensuring that diversity and youthful artistic expression will occur both on and off the stage. Evermay Chamber Orchestra is an ensemble of solo-caliber artists from five continents, assembled by S&R Foundation Washington Award Grand Prize Winner Tamaki Kawakubo, the recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, among other awards. Evermay Chamber Orchestra is presented by the S&R Foundation under the patronage of Dr. Ryuji Ueno. "We are absolutely delighted to collaborate with The Washington Ballet in bringing this magnificent score to life," states Kawakubo. "This is a landmark moment for Evermay Chamber and we are inspired to share some of Tchaikovsky's finest music with DC audiences."

Swan Lake will be conducted by Munich-based Nabil Shehata, an award-winning double bassist who was invited to Staatsoper Berlin by Daniel Barenboim as their first double bass soloist. He is a frequent guest soloist of prestigious orchestras. Since 2006, Shehata turned toward conducting and has since been invited to conduct orchestras throughout the world. In 2011, he was appointed the principal conductor of Munich Chamber Opera. Shehata adds, “This ballet has such a unique musical history, and it is so vital for these productions to take flight with live musicians. I have no doubt that this will be an artistically fulfilling collaboration between Evermay Chamber Orchestra and The Washington Ballet."

In many ways, Swan Lake defines classical ballet, emphasizing clarity, harmony and insight into the human spirit. It was originally composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875-76. The ballet first premiered in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow with choreography by Julius Reisinger. In 1895, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov choreographed the second, more renowned and iconic staging. In 1933, Agrippina Vaganova staged a significantly revised version of the 1895 Swan Lake by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa, adapting the 1895 ballet to suit Soviet Stalin-era tastes, and in 1934, Nicholas Sergeyev (who fled Russia in 1919) used his own original Mariinsky notations and re-staged the 1895 version of Swan Lake for the Vic-Wells Ballet (today the Royal Ballet), a production which retained Ivanov's original version of the Grand Adagio as a Pas de deux à Trois.

The Washington Ballet will be dancing Kirk Peterson’s adaptation of Swan Lake, which draws heavily from the 1934 adaptation of the 1895 original Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake. Both TWB and choreographer Kirk Peterson are re-examining the history books for Swan Lake, as many changes were made to the 1895 Swan Lake under Soviet Stalin to reflect Stalin-era tastes. A true historian and tireless researcher, Peterson is widely regarded as a specialist in re-staging full-length classical repertoire such as The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Giselle and Coppélia. Through years of research and dedication to the ballet, Peterson aims at reviving the original intent of Swan Lake and restores and breathes new life into what he calls “a damaged icon.”

Peterson has streamlined his version for audiences by omitting select national dances from Act III and has added a few of his own dances (including the Act I waltz and a Pas de Trois in Act III). These highly refined additions are stylistically consistent with the original. In addition, he has carefully restored rarely seen Act IV pantomime passages.

Choreographer Kirk Peterson has had a distinguished career in the ballet world as principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, London Festival Ballet and the now defunct National Ballet of Washington. With American Ballet Theatre, Peterson worked as principal dancer, choreographer, ballet master, principal character artist, master teaching associate and artistic director of ABT II.

Swan Lake is one of the great barometers for a ballet company and a dancer,” notes Webre. The company has presented excerpts for gala programs, but this production marks the company’s first full-length version of Swan Lake and the company has never been more eager.”

“Successfully executing this production is a sensational example of our new artistic goals,” adds Managing Director, Arthur Espinoza, Jr. “After last season’s successful production of Giselle, it was evident that the company’s artistic level has been on the rise, and that TWB is ready to take on this production. Septime was the first to recognize that the time was right.”

Swan Lake at the Eisenhower Theater, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:
Wednesday, April 8, 7:30 PM (Preview)
Thursday, April 9, 7:30 PM (Opening Night)
Friday, April 10, 7:30 PM
Saturday, April 11, 1:30 PM
Saturday, April 11, 7:30 PM
Sunday, April 12, 1:30 PM
Sunday, April 12, 6:30 PM

Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Choreography: Kirk Peterson after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov

Tickets for Swan Lake start at $25 and are available at, by calling (202) 467-4600 or visiting the Kennedy Center box office. The Kennedy Center is located at 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC.

For more information on these programs including casting updates, behind-the-scenes videos and more, visit