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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Sacramento Ballet presented a unique version of the classic “Swan Lake”

Sacramento Ballet presents “Swan Lake” on Feb. 17-19 at the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center, Sacramento CA. Photo courtesy of Tony Nguyen/Sacramento Ballet

Sacramento Ballet presented four shows of “Swan Lake” in mid-February at the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center.

Two soloists, Lauryn Winterhalder and Dylan Keane, performed in the first two shows on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. And Isabella Velasquez and Victor Maguad, who danced as Odette and Odile and Prince Siegfried, soloed on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

“Swan Lake” was written by Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Its first world premier took place on March 4, 1877 by Russian Imperial ballet at Bolshoi Theater, Moscow.

“There is a lot of drama that comes in, but it is a love story,” said Elise Elliott, Sacramento Ballet’s rehearsal director.

There were almost no empty seats in the theater during the Saturday evening performance, which I attended. The scenery on the stage was realistic. And, Anthony Krutzkamp, Sacramento Ballet’s artistic and executive director, shortened the show by reducing intermission. Instead of three hours and 25 minutes, Krutzkamp said, he shortened the show to two hours and 20 minutes.

He also combined the first and the second acts and the third and the fourth ones, which caused  the change of scenery to happen very quickly. Sacramento Ballet used curtains with a projection of the moon over the lake to symbolize that change so while this was happening, the audience could enjoy the classical music of Tchaikovsky.

In the first act, a well choreographed scene showed Prince Siegfried’s 21st birthday celebration at the ball. The male dancers were in sync and their leaps reached an impressive height as the dancers’ legs reached the level of their hips. Everyone could see the hours of work Sacramento Ballet choreographers and dancers put into this performance.

“Dance is a universal language,” said Stefan Calka, Sacramento Ballet dance coach.

Calka’s family is Ukrainian and he grew up doing Ukrainian folk dancing. People could see a lot of “little village steps,” according to him. “We made it a little more grand and elegant because it is a ballet.” Calka said.

Sacramento Ballet vision of the classical “Swan Lake” differed from the original version. But the main concept remained the same.

“Our approach was not overstepping and telling dancers exactly what to do, but pushing them into the sphere of what is correct and letting them use their imagination. So, they are using their voices to bring these characters to life,” Calka said.

“We were spending a lot of time analyzing what dancers are saying at that moment, what feelings they are trying to express,” he added.

The “Swan Lake” ballet is also unique because it has its own pantomime which is the dancers’ gesticulation. Prior to the show Calka, Elliott and Sabas showed to subscribers and donors some gestures during a Q&A session at the theater bar. 

“Pantomime is a long-lost way of speaking,” Calka said. According to him, dancers do not use it in every ballet. And this work is also hard. All gestures should be done slower and bigger to make any sense, according to Sabas. “So when they are doing all their gestures, everything has to be separate,” Calka added.

Sacramento Ballet’s approach to the dancers in its company looks like a classical version of ballet. Calka referred to the rehearsal process as an onion. He said that the first layer is learning the choreography, the second one is dancers’ technique and the third one, which is the most challenging, is learning of dancers’ character.

“It is not so much about pushing them to their limits, but about sharing with them how to approach their work within the structure and take it to fruition,” said Hazel Sabas, Sacramento Ballet rehearsal director. The choreographers and directors tried to share their own experience with their students and pass on their knowledge to them. 

“I know the pain, blood sweat, tears and all that stuff to cope with, but that is what they need to be on stage,” Sabas said.

In addition to ballet technique, it is very important for dancers to understand the feelings of their characters. Otherwise, the audience may not feel the whole story. “All we have is our movements to tell the story,” Calka said.

Winterhalder said her inspiration came from music and storyline. “I think that music tells the story by itself, and then you can put the extra intention and little nuances of the story on top of it,” she said.

The rehearsal process also did not take long, despite the professionalism that the audience saw on stage. The dancers started this repertoire in the first week of January and only spent about four weeks in the studio and two more weeks on stage with costumes.

Sacramento Ballet’s next two shows will be “Visions” from March 31 to April 2 at The Sofia and “Emergence” from May 19 to May 21 at The Sofia.

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