Swan Songs: Dance Magazine Went to Some of the Ballerinas Who Are Known for Their Portrayals of Odette/Odile. We Gathered Their Experiences and Advice for Young Dancers Just Starting to Learn the Part-And for Those Who Dream of Performing It Someday
Kunikova, Elena, Perron, Wendy, Dance Magazine
YUAN YUAN TAN
SAN FRANCISCO BALLET
Before the performance, I just calm down, get quiet, and visualize my bird. I try not to think too much because it will mess me up. Onstage it just happens, because of the muscle memory. But you have to think of the details--the swan-like neck, your fingertips as the tips of the wings. The entrance is always the hardest moment. After all the dry ice disappears, you have to do glissade, pique arabesque, and then hopefully I can stay on that arabesque. I need to rehearse more and more for that. If I can do the step well I can open up to the role.
When the ballet is over, my left leg is killing me. The pas de deux is on left leg, and the variation in second act, the long pas de deux and long variation and fouettees are on the left side. And so many bourrees--my toes hurt, too.
Some guys think about technique too much, and in the pas de deux you know they are saving energy for their variation. I can't stand that.
Advice: Study a lot of videos. Every famous ballerina does it differently; they are doing what suits their body. You can study them and try out what works for you. And gets lots lots lots of rehearsal.
AMERICAN BALLET THKATRE
In one act you are vulnerable and delicate, sensual and fragile. You don't need to do too much eyes or too much emotion; your body will tell more.
In another act you are spontaneous, hot, and sexy. You magnetize the prince and make him fall in love. You can look at him with evil eye and do it in a way that he won't see.
In the dressing room as I change costume, hairpiece, and makeup, I look at myself differently in the mirror. Red lipstick on Black Swan changes the character in one second. As I am walking onstage in a circle, I can feel everybody's eyes on my back, from audience to stage and wings, wondering who I am. It gives me energy.
In the last act, I have little tearball in my throat. For love she decides to leave this world. You want to cry but are holding back.
Advice: If you know the steps it doesn't mean you know the role. It takes years to learn what you want to say with each attitude, each bourree. If you're just counting, you will be lost. Each movement has a meaning.
My first Swan Lake I danced with fear and trepidation, trying to be up to the mark of the Maryinsky Theatre. Now I'm trying to make the image more complex, to embody the musical intonations as if in speech. Odette is all love and hope; she is very cautious and uncertain of her Prince. She is waiting [to be released from the spell] in the state of endless despair. Odette is a pure ideal; she is a question without an answer. I sympathize and admire her. Odile's character on the other hand is foreign to me. She is elegant and fascinating, but beguiling like a society lioness. She knows how to "sell" herself. Some people say that my Odile lacks eroticism, temptation, black magic. But that wouldn't be me. Evil is more dangerous when concealed. We often get entrapped by hidden evil.
Advice: Spend time scrupulously working out the details. It should not become just a showcase of one's facilities and abilities, but a beautiful song.
When you are young it is hard to master both the technique and the drama, to make arms to be wings, to combine the emotional expressiveness of the upper body with strong legwork. I am still searching for ever more beautiful poses as Odette, for new emotional nuances, and I'm working on making technical difficulties invisible. It feels as if I start from scratch every time.
In St. Petersburg I was taught to show Odile as a bright, beautiful seductress. But in the Bolshoi's version, Odile is more mysterious, more secretive and deceiving. It's easier for me to transform into Odile. The bright lights, chic black costume, and crown all help to create the right mood. …