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Coinciding with the buzz around Black Swan, University Ballet (UBallet) will be putting on its own performance of Swan Lake this weekend. Starring International Relations graduate student Megan Furman as Princess Odette, third-year Vivi DiMarco as Odile, and computer science graduate student Eugene Shumkov as Prince Siegfried, the show will be an abridged but accurate portrayal of the original production.
We all know the story of a beautiful princess transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer. The spell can only be broken by a vow of true love and is nearly resolved when a prince stumbles upon the princess mid-transformation. Enchanted by her beauty, he falls in love. Their love is thwarted, however, when the evil sorcerer disguises his daughter as the princess and tricks the prince.
“This ballet is usually staged in four acts with varying endings, but due to time constraints we have taken some creative liberties with the plot,” said fourth-year artistic director Michael Scalzo. “Our production will center around Acts II and III with a condensed ending.”
UBallet will also be performing a student-choreographed Peter Pan, with third-year Tiffany Hu starring in the title role. A more modern production, Peter Pan’s tone will be lively and light-hearted. Scalzo says that one of his favorite moments in the ballet is the entrance of the Lost Boys. The choreography is “a unique fusion of both modern and ballet techniques and is both high energy and comedic,” he said.
Since UBallet is open to dancers of all skill levels, managing the choreography can be one of the production’s greatest challenges. It has to be “aesthetically pleasing [yet] within the capabilities of [the] performers,” said Scalzo. Persephone Ma, third-year executive director of UBallet, says one of the most satisfying moments is “when the choreography [goes] from just movements in a specific order to an actual artful performance.”
“Seeing that process where the dancers [learn] to actually understand the subtleties in their movement and the motivations behind what they [are] doing reminds me why we perform and have art,” Ma said. “Especially at a place with such a rigorous academic schedule.”
In addition to adjusting the choreography to fit all of the dancers’ skill levels, another problem that faced the dancers was finding a balance between academics and rehearsals. Each dancer is required to attend one ballet class per week as well as their rehearsal. “The commitment [ranges] from two hours to seven or eight,” said Ma. Of this year’s particular production, Ma says the RSO held about 100 hours of practice.
Practice was held in the Ida Noyes Dance Room—a difficult place to secure for 100 hours. “Each group gets a very limited amount of rehearsal time,” said Scalzo. “The space of performance venues available to use are sometimes hard to work with when setting a ballet with a 50-person cast.”
With 56 associated members, this year’s production boasts one of the largest casts in UBallet history. Though staging Swan Lake, one of the most iconic and well-known ballets, was an incredible challenge for UBallet, there has been “an overwhelming sense of dedication from the company,” said Scalzo. “[It] has been an amazing experience...[having] the opportunity to work with an incredibly talented group of dancers and choreographers who share [a] love of ballet.”