The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky is remembered most for such timeless classics as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake, the last of which is being brought to Dubai by Sofia Ballet, the private Bulgarian classical ballet company created by Serdica Music.
Composed in 1875 and first performed in 1877, Swan Lake was originally choreographed by Lev Ivanov from Russia and Marius Petipa from France.
According to Sergei Korobkov, the editor-in-chief of Ballet in Russia magazine, it was the first time Russian ballet made a clear and definitive merging of "cultural eras and artistic styles". From then on, he says, it set the bar high.
The story follows a princess turned into a swan by a sorcerer's curse. Prince Siegfried, upon learning he must quickly choose a bride, momentarily escapes from his pressures and encounters on a lake, far from the castle, a group of swans who mysteriously turn into girls. Among them is the Swan Queen (Odette) who tells him of the evil magician.
As Prince Siegfried falls in love with Odette, the sorcerer begins to plot and has his daughter Odile (the Black Swan) disguise herself as his true love to trick the Prince.
Swan Lake is often regarded as the most technically challenging ballet. Performers must have good technique, artistry and musicality, says Reneta Yuliy, the general manager of Serdica Music and a former ballerina. "The music and the choreography are among the premier expressions of artistic beauty ever produced - that's why Swan Lake is the most glorious of the ballets," she says.
Dubai audiences, she says, should expect magical solos and beautiful music from one of Tchaikovsky's most "brilliant masterpieces". "The message in Swan Lake applies to all ballets of Tchaikovsky and it is: Love conquers all!" says Yuliy.
Sofia Ballet tours as a dance troupe with soloists from establishments such as Rousse State Opera and Ballet; National Opera and Ballet Bucharest; Norwegian National Opera and Ballet; and Macedonian National Opera and Ballet.
Make-up, costumes and scenery are crucial in creating the atmosphere in classical ballet, says Yuliy. A total of 30 cast and crew create the production.
The Swan Queen
The role of the Swan Queen was first made famous by the Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani, who "performed with such grace and discipline" it brought great prestige to those who followed in delivering the role. The Dubai performance will see Bianca Fota, the principal dancer of Bucharest National Ballet, playing Odette.
"Through art, people from every culture can find the language for dialogue. Swan Lake comes from the mixture of Russian and French cultures and brings to the stage what is most beautiful from each of these two," she says.
"This is why I hope that the audience from Dubai will enjoy this masterpiece."
Being part of Swan Lake is a challenge, she says, and requires physical skills, technical virtuosity and strong interpretation of emotions. Fota has also played Aurora and Diamond in Sleeping Beauty, Clara in The Nutcracker, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella.
"It's a great way to express emotions; on stage, you can 'borrow' the life and stories of some great characters," she says.
The most important scene in Swan Lake, she adds, is the first time Siegfried sees Odette. "It's the point where the wings of the story start to open. The magic between them spreads to the audience and takes them into the fairy tale," says Fota.
Swan Lake will be performed tonight, tomorrow and Friday at First Group Theatre, Madinat Jumeirah, at 7.30pm. On Friday, there will also be a matinée at 2.30pm. Tickets cost Dh375 Gold, Dh280 Silver and Dh200 Balcony and are available at the box office and Time Out Tickets. Visit www.madinattheatre.com