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Remember that post I did a couple months back about getting the best bang for your buck at the opera?  No?  Well, that was written before I saw the renew-your-subscription-for-the-next-(unappealing)-season brochure and decided not spend my artsy entertainment bucks and time on opera next year.

No, sirree, instead, I’m dedicating my audienceship to the ballet. One ballet, over and over again, while it is in season.  This past weekend I saw Pacific Northwest Ballet’s splendid production of Swan Lake.  And then saw it again.  And, um, have already purchased tickets for two more performances next weekend.  Swan season in Seattle is brief – two weekends every three years or so, so I decided to gorge on it while it lasts.

photo borrowed from PNB’s blog with apologies for any misappropriation

I’ve never seen the full length Swan Lake before this past Saturday, only excerpts, those famous duets (and a quartet) that get performed as part of evening dance hodgepodges, like short stories, and various bits shown in movies.  I knew the story: boy/prince meets girl/enchanted swan after being commanded by his queen mum to marry and running off to the lake with his buddies to go swan-hunting with crossbows.  Girl is only girl by moonlight; otherwise is beautiful white swan entrapped by spell of evil sorcerer who looks like an owl, with spell that can only be broken by true love.  Girl begs boy to spare swans, dances tenderly with smitten boy, while surrounded by the beautiful flock…

… until sorcerer summons her away.  The next night boy must attend a bride-finding ball thrown by the queen mum with lovely princesses and entertainment from other countries.  Boy rejects all potential brides until the evil sorcerer disguised as a nobleman shows up with his daughter, looking very much like the girl/enchanted swan, but wearing glittery black and seductively strutting her stuff, very unlike the vulnerable girlswan the boy fell in love with back at the lake.  Nevertheless, after imposter girl does 32 fouetté turns on one leg,

… and boy does a whole bunch of his own impressive pirouettes, he then proposes marriage to imposter daughter girl.   Imposter daughter and sorcerer laugh cruelly and triumphantly and boy realizes his mistake.  Boy returns to the lake and apologizes to his true love.  Too late.  Girlswan dies.*  Boy is left heartbroken.  Curtain comes down.

So anyway, I finally saw PNB’s version on Saturday afternoon.  It was stunning – the entire ensemble and orchestra and sets and costumes – but I found my bargain-awkward-view subscription seat a little frustrating, and was curious to see how other lead dancers would interpret the roles.  The cast lists get posted on the PNB website shortly before each production, so it’s possible plan accordingly.  So I decided to see it again on Sunday afternoon with a different lead cast: my favorite PNB male dancer as the prince, and a ballerina I hadn’t seen much of before who is featured in a lot of the company’s publicity shots especially for this production.  I even splurged on a pricier ticket for a better view (farther away but unobscured).

The leads on Sunday were truly astonishing – at this point my all-time favorite ballet-viewing experience ever – and the different seat made for better viewing of the entire gorgeous flock of swans, beautiful sets, and the dazzling entertainers at the ball.  My proverbial socks were knocked off.

Carla Korbes, the ballerina who literally brought tears to my eyes in her white girlswan form on Sunday afternoon, is featured in this 2009 PNB advertisement:

and also appears at the 2:29 minute mark of this:

And her prince Karel Cruz, who seemingly can spin forever and hover in the air whenever he jumps, talks about and rehearses for another ballet with the same ballerina here:

I was so moved by Sunday’s show that I went home and bought a ticket to see Carla and Karel again next Saturday. And because I also really want to see ballerina Carrie Imler’s (another one of my favorites) interpretation, I decided to splurge on Friday night as well. And just in case she and her prince knock my socks off, too (and there are any affordable tickets left), I’m keeping Sunday afternoon open.

*Girl doesn’t always die, maybe even rarely dies … I probably acquired that misconception from that creepy 2010 movie … in PNB’s production, she floats away into the misty lake.



  1. I would just like to go on record and state that Karel Cruz is amazing. I honestly consider myself a fan of the man and his dancing. I never thought I would ever be interested in such things, but I am. I wish I could jet out this weekend and take in Swan Lake with you and Karel.

    By the way, I don’t think you’re crazy for seeing the same ballet four times. I’ve seen James Taylor in concert 16 times (once two days in a row). It’s not much different.

    • It would have been fun to share Swan Lake and Karel with you (but then you would have missed Josh Ritter). Hey, maybe it’s time to stop planning trips around concerts and start planning them around ballets!

      Sixteen concerts for one artist must be a record for someone who isn’t following the Grateful Dead. I’m impressed (and happy to relate) Have you ever missed James Taylor when he’s in town?

      Incidentally, I saw That Thing You Do on the big screen eight times.

      • I haven’t seen James Taylor since 2008 (and the corresponding post says it was my 17th show!). I honestly don’t know if he’s been to town since then. I may have missed him a couple times. He usually plays a big outdoor venue when he’s in town and I’ve sort of lost interest in that kind of concert experience. He’s always great, though. I never get tired of hearing him sing.

        My record for seeing a movie on the big screen is three times for The Big Lebowski. One of those times was in Dutch.

        • What does The Dude sound like in Dutch?

        • I think the movie had the normal English language voices with Dutch subtitles.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Perhaps you recall my little obsession with Swan Lake last spring. […]

  2. […] year and a half or so, you may have noticed that I turned into a rabid balletomane in April 2013.  Seeing Carla Körbes dance in Swan Lake is what made that happen.  She quite literally brought tears to my eyes with the exquisitely […]

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