Misty Copeland & Brooklyn Mack to Make Historic Debut in Swan Lake
For the first time in dance history, a major company will perform the ballet “Swan Lake” with two African-American lead dancers — Misty Copeland will take on the lead as Odette/Odile, while her love interest, Prince Siegfried, will be danced by the Washington Ballet Theatre’s Brooklyn Mack. The two will effectively shatter the all-white stereotype of “Swan Lake,” the most traditional of ballets.
Black dancers have been rare in leading ballet roles with major companies, especially in classical works such as “Swan Lake,” in which the star is traditionally white and waiflike.
Copeland said in a statement: “It certainly goes against traditional casting. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to show that African American ballerinas can also conform to the traditional vision for a swan as feminine and sylph-like while also being artistically and physically powerful.”
Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, called the event history in the making, and said that it challenges the paradigms about how principal dancers in classical roles should look.
“The ballet world has had a history of a glass ceiling of sorts for African-American male dancers to a degree but certainly ballerinas,“ said Webre. “So it’s been exciting to question the notion of what Swan Lake should be about!”
The Washington Ballet production of “Swan Lake” debuts in April 2015.
Something rare is happening in the world of ballet: At the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., two African-American dancers will be the leads in The Washington Ballet’s production of Swan Lake: Misty Copeland, soloist with American Ballet Theatre, will dance the dual role of Odette and Odile, while Brooklyn Mack of The Washington Ballet will dance Prince Siegfried.
Copeland and Mack have something in common that is also rare for young African-Americans: teachers who saw their potential early on and broke the unwritten rule that all ballet dancers must look alike.
swan lake starts out with the prince seigfried with his hilariously stupid name.
his mother is the queen of some unnamed kingdom, and on his birthday she not only gives him a crossbow, which is apparently common in quasi victorian times, but she also reminds him that since he is 21 and like an adult now that he needs to have some responsibilities. these include governing the kingdom and taking a wife, because you know, WHO RUN THE WORLD? GIRLS.
so he’s all like “gosh mom okay whatever i get it” and goes out with some of his broskies to go hunting with his new crossbow. he goes running after some swan and gets separated from his buds. the swan actually morphs into a woman and she’s all like “damn son please don’t shoot me”
he’s all like “man girlfriend you so fine but you’re like half swan and that’s kind of weird what’s your story?”
she tells him that her name is odette and shes a princess turned into a swan by a vengeful sorcerer rothbart who apparently has nothing better to do than torture young ladies, and trapped her and her swan maidens on a lake made out of her mother’s tears and they’re all pretty upset about it
at this point there is a lot of dancing of the swans which is probably the most memorable and gorgeous part of the ballet, but has absolutely nothing to do with the story other than being like “damn these girls are swans”
she’s all like “hey the only way i can get to be a real human again and save all my swan lady sisters is for a man to fall in love with me and swear it to the world”
and despite having known her and danced with her for only like 20 minutes by now he’s all like “oh course ill do that for you bae, in fact my mom is having a ball tonight you should come we’ll do it then”
von rothbart, who is listening in, is all like “hell no am i letting my swan bbs go” and he starts to concoct a plan to fuck up their love swearing shindig
act three flashes forward to the next night, with the ball. seigfried’s queen mom has brought all these eligible princesses from neighboring kingdoms to try to egg him on like “please get married already.” all the princesses are of course into it because hey, cute prince, and they all try to do their best dancing for him to remind him that they are the most marry-able
they dance with their entourages in a lot of traditional dances, like the hungarian czardas, until BOOM INTERRUPTION
in busts odette, or who we think is odette, and some dude. turns out rothbart has used his magic to tranform his daughter odile to look like odette, but she is a black swan, instead of a white swan.
this sassy bitch dances with seigfried and he’s completely enraptured- he totally thinks this is the same swan lady from the other night. she’s such a boss ass bitch with her rad thirty two fouettes and her like mad gorgeousness that he is completely convinced that she is odette, and of course he goes in front of everyone to swear his motherfucking love TO THE WRONG GIRL
this is the terrible moment where we see odette frantically flying at the window, and he realizes THAT HE HAS MADE A GRAVE MISTAKE
odile and rothbart laugh it up and leave in a flash of smoke because they think that odette is now going to be a swan forever with her swan girlfriends and seigfried busts out to there to go look for her
he gets to the lake and odette is in tears, surrounded and protected by her flock, who don’t want to let this dude in. she listens to his plea and forgives him
then she decides that the only way to free her flock of swans is to kill herself, and she leaps off the cliff into the lake, drowning herself, despite the fact that SHE IS A BIRD AND SWAN CAN SWIM, and seigfried, unable to live without her and wracked with guilt, follows her and jumps to his death.
with the two’s selfless death and eternal love, the swans are freed from their bondage and rothbart dies, as we see their eternal souls floating over in the horizon.
(in some versions, the two promise o jump off the cliff and the romise in and off itself frees the swans so nobody has to die, and in some versions, they fight rothbart and kill him, and in other versions, only odette dies, so i can see how this might get confusing)
*shuts story book* and that’s the ballet of swan lake