Review of the Joffrey Ballet’s Premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake

Comment Off 820 Views
October 15, 2014
By: Sharon Vacek
The Auditorium Theatre erupted in thunderous applause for the Joffrey Ballet’s Premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake on Wednesday, October 15. The classic love story is re-imagined and brought to life as a masterful display of grace, skill and elegance. As the curtain rises, the audience is given a “voyeuristic” glimpse of a 19th century ballet studio where the dancers are preparing for the production of Swan Lake. After rehearsal, the Principal Dancer, performed by Dylan Gutierrez,  becomes so immersed in his character of Prince Siegfried that he is transported into the magical fairy tale of Swan Lake where he falls in love with the beautiful swan maiden Odette, performed by the multi-talented Victoria Jaiani. Completely captivated by her beauty, he pulls her in and the two begin to dance a mesmerizing, dream-like dance in slow motion with elegance and fluidity of movement.
The ballet is pure enjoyment with an exquisite solo perfomance by Victoria Jaiani as Odile (the gray swan) who Prince Siegfried (Dylan) is tricked into believing is his beloved Odette. At the height of her performance, Jaiani completes a series of at least 30 fouette turns with what appears to be great ease, after which the audience explodes in applause.Dylan also amazes the crowd with his gravity-defying leaps and graceful landings. As a couple, they are a delight to watch as their bodies glide across the stage and they flawlessly perform sky-high lifts.
Another highlight is the magical performance by the Cygnets quartet with their incredible synchronicity as they stand side by side, as if they were glued together, while moving their feet and heads in unison. The ballet is unique in the fact that choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake blurs the line between fantasy and reality and causes the audience to wonder if the performance is real or part of the Prince’s imagination.    
Performances of Swan Lake at the Auditorium Theatre continue through October 26th. This full-length ballet features a live accompaniment by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra with music by Tchaikovsky. For information and ticket sales, visit




Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake,

A chicago premiere by THE JOFFREY BALLET,

places a classic gem in a fresh, new setting


At Auditorium Theatre, October 15-26

CHICAGO (September 15, 2014) – The Joffrey Ballet celebrates its 20th anniversary of calling Chicago home in the 2014-15 season and its annual fall engagement brings the Joffrey Premiere of a newly envisioned Swan Lake to Chicago for the first time, choreographed by one of ballet’s most acclaimed choreographers, Christopher Wheeldon.  Continuing Joffrey Artistic Director Ashley Wheater’s endeavor to bring re-imagined story-ballets to Chicago audiences, this performance represents the first time The Joffrey Ballet has ever performed a Swan Lake in its almost 60-year history.  Swan Lake is presented at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, in 10 performances only, October 15 – 26.


“Over the years, I have seen many versions of Swan Lake,” noted Wheater.  “This is an iconic ballet, and most people are familiar with the story and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score.  I was at the premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s new production.  I remember saying to him, ‘If I ever direct a company, I want to present your Swan Lake.’  There is something so fresh and so well-integrated about his idea.  He is a master story-teller with an innate sense of musicality.  After working with us, Chris wrote to the dancers, ‘Find purpose in every moment you are on the stage.’  Good advice for anyone.”


A $1.5 million production with opulent costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant and scenic design by Adrianne Lobel, Wheeldon’s Swan Lake was commissioned for the Pennsylvania Ballet in 2004 to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary.  Set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s timeless score and modeled from the original Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa choreography, Wheeldon sets Swan Lake in the 19th century of the Paris Opera Ballet, during the time when Tchaikovsky was actually composing Swan Lake in Moscow and when a young impressionist named Edgar Degas was on the rise in Paris.


A ballet in four acts, Wheeldon’s Swan Lake opens in the ballet studio as dancers prepare for a major opening night.  Fans of Degas’ “ballerinas” collection will recognize familiar poses as the ballerinas begin to warm up, as Wheeldon has incorporated imagery from many Degas paintings into the opening choreography.  Siegfried, a young company dancer, is preparing for a lead role while his mother – a major patron of the company – oversees the rehearsal and openly laments his lack of a wife.  After a rigorous rehearsal, Siegfried stays behind while the others break to go over his role in his mind, soon becoming swept up in his own fantasy.  As Act II begins, the rehearsal studio melts away and Siegfried finds himself at a mysterious but enchanting lake surrounded by majestic swans.  In the moonlight, the swans are revealed to be maidens and Odette, Queen of the Swans, steps forth.  Siegfried, wielding a crossbow, must show Odette he means them no harm as he slowly gains her trust and her love.  Lurking in the shadows, though, is the sinister Von Rothbart, who holds cryptic dominion over the swans.


As Act III opens, Siegfried must come back to reality, finding himself in the studio once again while the company is in the midst of a masquerade gala.  The dancers entertain the wealthy patrons with choreography both graceful and bawdy, including a saucy can-can number.  Von Rothbart appears again, here as one of the dignified patrons, and brings the darkly enchanting Odile, identical to Odette, to charm Siegfried and lead him away from Odette.  Siegfried, at first enamored, realizes the truth and rushes from the studio to return to the lake to find the real Odette.  In the climatic Act IV, Siegfried, surrounded by the swans, desperately searches for Odette as Von Rothbart tries to keep them apart in the timeless struggle between evil and the transcendent power of love.


Throughout the production, Wheeldon plays with themes of fantasy, illusion and transformation, juxtaposing both time, setting and characters to reveal a new way to see this classic fairytale ballet.


Tickets and Schedule

The Joffrey Ballet performs Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake Wednesday, October 15 through Sunday, October 26.  The full performance schedule is as follows:  Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 pm; Friday, Oct. 17 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Oct. 18 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm; Sunday, Oct. 19 at 2 pm; Thursday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 pm; Friday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Oct. 25 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm; Sunday, October 26 at 2 pm


Single tickets, priced from $32 to $170, are available for purchase at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787, or online at


About the Choreographer

Christopher Wheeldon is Artistic Associate of The Royal Ballet in London and one of the most innovative and sought-after choreographers in ballet today.  Born in Yeovil, Somerset, England, Wheeldon began his ballet training at eight years old and began studying at The Royal Ballet School at eleven. Wheeldon joined The Royal Ballet in 1991 and in 1993 was invited to become a member of New York City Ballet (NYCB), where he was promoted to soloist in 1998.  Wheeldon choreographed his first work for NYCB, Slavonic Dances, for the 1997 Diamond Project and, in collaboration with artist Ian Falconer, created Scènes de Ballet for the School of American Ballet’s 1999 Workshop Performances and NYCB’s 50th anniversary season.  After creating Mercurial Manoeuvers for NYCB’s Spring 2000 Diamond Project, Wheeldon retired from dancing to concentrate on choreography.  Wheeldon has choreographed for companies all over the world and in 2012 he collaborated with Alastair Marriott on the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games, watched by 23.2 million people worldwide.  His most recent creations are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a co-production between The Royal Ballet and National Ballet of Canada, and The Winter’s Tale for The Royal Ballet.  To learn more, visit here.


About The Joffrey Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet is Chicago’s premier ballet company committed to artistic excellence and innovation, presenting a unique repertory encompassing masterpieces of the past and cutting-edge works of today. Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956, guided by celebrated choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron. The Joffrey is also committed to providing arts education and accessible dance training through its Joffrey Academy of Dance and Community Engagement programs.


The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of its 2014-15 Season Sponsors and Partners.  With special thanks to Swan Lake Presenting Sponsor, Dr. and Mrs. Josef Lakonishok; Swan Lake Production Sponsor, Walgreens; New Work Presenting Sponsor, The Anne and Burt Kaplan Fund of the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation; Co-Sponsors of the 2014-2015 Season: Abbott Fund, Alphawood Foundation Chicago and NIB Foundation; Official Airline, United Airlines; Official Provider of Physical Therapy, AthletiCo; Official Hotel, JW Marriott; and Official Health Club, Chicago Athletic Clubs.


For more information on The Joffrey Ballet and its programs, please visit


# # #


The Silverman Group, Inc.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Editor of Media website.
Free Newsletter Updated Daily