Review: Swan Lake (Ballet Jörgen Canada)

Ballet Jörgen Canada brings the timeless classic Swan Lake to the Toronto stage

Linda Schettle 2

It isn’t often that I get to watch classical ballet anymore. It was a treat to get to attend opening night of Ballet Jörgen Canada’s Swan Lake at the Betty Oliphant Theatre on Wednesday night. There’s something very nostalgic for me about watching these traditional stories come to life. It makes me feel like a kid again.

For anyone that doesn’t know the story of Swan Lake, it is your traditional boy-meets-girl tragic love story, just with some added magic and allusions to beastiality for pizzaz. Prince Siegfried is told by his mother that he must choose a bride to wed. Upset by her demand he goes hunting and comes across a flock of swans. As he aims to shoot, one of the swans suddenly becomes a beautiful young woman whom he falls in love with. The young woman, Odette, explains that she is a princess who has been cast under a spell by the sorcerer Von Rothbart. She is destined to be a swan by day and a woman by night until her true love is found and commits to her forever.

Clearly Siegfried wants to be this man, but evil Von Rothbart wants Odette to be a swan forever. The rest of the ballet unfolds as cunning Von Rothbart tries to trick Siegfried into committing himself to another woman, ultimately ending in the death of all three adversaries. A tragic love tale at its finest.

Ballet Jörgen Canada’s version has a few minor plot differences from the original tale. Choreographer and Artistic Director, Bengt Jörgen, has set the ballet in Nova Scotia to add Canadian flair to the production. This change, though mostly aesthetic, allows for some new party guests to join the festivities and brings some movement diversity by honouring the various Canadian cultural groups. He has also made a slight tweak to the ending of the production where now Odette is left alone with her lover and her captor both dead at her feet. These changes, though minor, were enough to make me refer back to my history books to make sure I hadn’t forgotten how the story plays out.

My guest and I are both dancers and we were impressed by the technical abilities of the cast. They showed great strength and fluidity. We turned to each other at the end and both commented that we had forgotten just how hard ballet is! There were definitely some impressive performances throughout the evening.

My only frustration while watching the performance was with the facial expressions of the performers. As a dancer I empathize with the struggle to emote with one’s face when the movement is demanding so much concentration, but personally I found the facial expressions overdramatic. A little too much eyebrow raising and forced smiling for my liking.

I have seen the story of Swan Lake interpreted by many ballet companies over the years. Though the story isn’t one that I personally find overly thrilling it does always lend itself to an enjoyable evening out. The music is catchy, the costumes are showy and last night the dancing was great. A timeless ballet classic.


  •  Swan Lake is playing at the Betty Oliphant Theatre (404 Jarvis Street) until March 30, 2013
  • Shows run Thursday March 28 and Saturday March 30 at 8pm
  • Tickets range from $35-$75 with discounts for students and seniors
  • Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (416) 978-8849
  • Swan Lake will also be touring in Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick throughout the month of April. For detailed touring information you can visit the Ballet Jörgen Canada event calendar.

Photo of Grigory Popov and Saniya Abilmajineva by Kevin Vagg

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