National Arts Centre


January 4 – 6, 2021

National Arts Centre


January 4 – 6, 2021


Set to Tchaikovsky’s glittering score, Swan Lake is the epitome of classical ballet, beloved the world over for its lyricism, musicality and masterful choreography and for a love story that is both symbolic and intimate. Artistic Director Karen Kain gives renewed emphasis to the romance of Swan Lake – to Prince Siegfried and his beloved Odette – in a new staging, choreographed after Erik Bruhn’s landmark version in celebration of her 50th Anniversary with The National Ballet of Canada in 2019/20.

The Story

Prince Siegfried is approaching his 21st birthday and must soon choose a bride. Brooding, he goes on a hunt and takes aim at a swan, when it transforms into a beautiful woman, Odette. They fall in love. Odette has been cursed by the evil Rothbart to live as a swan by day and a woman by night. Only a pledge of true love will break the spell. But Rothbart tricks Siegfried into declaring his love for the wrong woman, the black swan Odile.

Five Things to Know
  1. Swan Lake premiered in Moscow in 1877 and is performed by top ballet companies worldwide. The National Ballet of Canada has three versions of Swan Lake in its history, all created by former Artistic Directors: Celia Franca (1955), Erik Bruhn (1967) and James Kudelka (1999).
  2. Most adaptations of Swan Lake are based on the 1895 revival by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Choreographers often modify the scenario without changing all of the choreography, much of which is so familiar and beloved it is untouchable.
  3. The dual role of Odette/Odile is among the most coveted and challenging in the classical repertoire. Performing it requires the ballerina to capture both the subtle fragility of Odette and the fierce dynamism of Odile, all with impeccable technique.
  4. The role of Odile is notorious for its 32 fouetté turns, which come at the end of a grueling pas de deux. A fouetté is a type of pirouette in which one leg whips out and around, creating propulsion (“fouetté” means “to whip”).
  5. In the famous “dance of the little swans,” or “four cygnets,” four women cross the stage, arms linked, in total unison. The choreography gestures to the way baby swans cluster together for protection and ultimately break apart, as they learn to fly.

Swan Lake View Gallery

The Creator

Karen Kain joined The National Ballet of Canada in 1969 and was promoted to Principal Dancer in 1971. Over the course of her dancing career, she collaborated with top choreographers, toured internationally and worked on stage and in film as a guest artist. She has led the National Ballet as Artistic Director with great success since 2005. Ms. Kain will retire from the company in January 2021.

The Composer

The late 19th century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created some of the most popular works in the classical repertoire, particularly his three full-length scores for ballet: Swan LakeThe Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. His body of work includes full-length operas, symphonies and concertos.


Directed and Staged by:
Karen Kain, C.C., LL.D., D.Litt., O.Ont. after Erik Bruhn, Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa

Additional Choreography and Staging by:
Christopher Stowell and Robert Binet

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Set, Property and Costume Designer:
Gabriela Týlešová

Lighting Designer:
Bonnie Beecher

Projection Designer:
Sean Nieuwenhuis

Design Associate, Wardrobe:
Marjory Fielding

Design Assistant, Wardrobe:
Allie Marshall

Design Associate, Set & Properties:
Joshua Quinlan

Produced and commissioned by The National Ballet of Canada. 

Lead philanthropic support for Swan Lake is provided by The Walter Carsen New Creations Fund, with generous underwriting from Richard M. Ivey, C.C., an anonymous friend of the National Ballet, Susan Scace & Arthur Scace, C.M., Q.C., The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, Nancy Pencer, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., Gretchen Ross & Donald Ross, O.C., Anne-Marie Canning, Anna McCowan Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Tim & Frances Price, Kevin Garland & Roger Garland, C.M. and Aaron & Heather Regent. Additional support provided by The Producers’ Circle.

The Producers’ Circle: Gail & Mark Appel, John & Claudine Bailey, Inger Bartlett & Marshal Stearns, Laura Dinner & Richard Rooney, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, The Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Family Charitable Foundation, Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan, Kevin Garland & Roger Garland, C.M., Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, The William & Nona Heaslip Foundation, Anna McCowan Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Judy Korthals & Peter Irwin, Mona & Harvey Levenstein, Jerry & Joan Lozinski, The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., Julie Medland, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., The Harry & Lillian Seymour Family Foundation, Gerald Sheff & Shanitha Kachan and The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation.

For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit the National Arts Centre website.

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