You probably recognize the famous music, but how much do you really know about the famous ballet, Swan Lake? Here is an overview of this beautiful ballet:


The world’s favorite classical ballet, Swan Lake was first composed in 1875 and still remains one of the most loved and captivating ballets. Swan Lake debuted in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1877 but was not well-received. The choreographers, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanoc, then reworked the choreography in preparation for a performance at St. Petersburg. The new version has remained the most popular version. Swan Lake was performed in the U.S. for the first time in 1940 by the San Francisco Ballet.

The Story

Swan Lake is a classic tale of love, magic, tragedy and romance. The play centers around two star-crossed lovers, Prince Siegfried and Odette, a swan princess. Odette has been cursed to spend her days swimming as a swan on a lake of tears. At night, she transforms back into her beautiful human form. When the Prince and princess meet, they quickly fall in love. But the sorcerer who has cursed the princess continues to wreak havoc on the couple. A happy ending prevails, however, and the prince and princess are able to spend together forever.

The Meaning of the Swan

Tchaikovsky and his colleagues all agreed that the swan represents womanhood in its purest form. Stories and legends of swan-maidens can be found all the way back to ancient Greek mythology and in several other ancient texts.

Pierina Legnani

Swan Lake has long been regarded as one of the most demanding ballets to perform. This is largely due to one ballerina, Pierina Legnani. She performed Swan Lake with such grace and skill that the bar was quickly set for other ballerinas to follow. Every ballerina to perform the role of Odette/Odile after Legnani was compared to her. Legnani performed 32 fouettes (a fast-whipping turn on one foot) in a row, which is still considered extremely difficult. The role of Odette/Odile is an aspiration for many ballerinas, due to its difficulty and prestige.

Swan Lake is a beautiful ballet, but beautiful things don’t often come easily. Ballerinas wishing to perform as Odette in Swan Lake must work hard in their ballet career to reach their goals.