Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Kent Stowell’s “Swan Lake,” running through Sunday, April 19. Photo by Angela Sterling
Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Kent Stowell’s “Swan Lake,” running through Sunday, April 19. Photo by Angela Sterling

If you’re under the impression that tickets to a Pacific Northwest Ballet performance are only for the seriously deep-pocketed, think again. Last Thursday, I happily enjoyed a preview ticket to “Swan Lake” for a mere $30.

My preview ticket included a pre-show lecture about the ballet and some swanky seating at the dress rehearsal, seats that normally cost between $125 and $182. That’s a steal, particularly for a ballet like “Swan Lake.”

Probably the most revered classical ballet and featuring heartbreakingly gorgeous music by Tchaikovsky, “Swan Lake” is the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and the beautiful Odette. Under the enchantment of a wicked sorcerer, Odette must live as a white swan by day and a woman by night. Only a man who swears his allegiance to Odette can undo the spell. When the prince falls for Odette and they pledge their undying love for each other, it seems Odette’s nightmare is over. Of course, sorcerer von Rothbart has other plans. Von Rothbart arrives at the prince’s Grand Ball with his daughter, Odile, an Odette lookalike who bewitches the prince.

While it’s a sprint to get to the lecture from work by its start time of 6 p.m., you can gain welcome insights into the ballet. The lecture for “Swan Lake” featured principal dancer Lesley Rausch, one of three dancers scheduled to perform the taxing dual role of Odette/Odile, and coach Elaine Bauer, a former principal ballerina renowned for her interpretation of the ballet’s “Dying Swan” solo.

Among other things, the pair discussed how dancing Odette/Odile requires very different physicality to create two clearly unique personalities. Odette is innocent and noble, while Odile is earthy, seductive and dangerous, and distinguishing between them adds to the challenge and strenuousness of the roles.

Then there are ordeals such as the 32 fouéttes in the “Black Swan” pas de deux, a hurdle late in the ballet when the dancer is fatigued. Rausch noted that by the time she reaches the ballet’s fourth act, she is “so exhausted from the third act, it works really well for the storyline.” As Bauer said, this role is seen as a tour de force for a ballerina for good reason.

If the lecture doesn’t fit your schedule, head straight for the dress rehearsal, which began at 7 p.m. The information sheet provided in lieu of a full program warned this would be a working rehearsal, which could include stops and starts to adjust the performance, dancers sometimes not dancing full out and less than full makeup and costumes.

We had a bird’s-eye view from our balcony seats as photographers moved about shooting publicity photos on the reserved main floor, and staff conferred with computerized tablets and each other during the performance and intermissions. Occasionally, someone would speak into a P.A. system, giving a note to the conductor to slow down a certain passage or to a dancer to adjust her steps.

None of the dress-rehearsal aspects detracted from my enjoyment of this haunting ballet and its demanding choreography: the swanlike unison work of the female corps de ballet, the heroics required of the principal ballerina and the pas de quatre in Act II, in which four ballerinas dance, arms crossed and linked, with jaw-dropping speed and precision. 

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Swan Lake” performs at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall (321 Mercer St.), through Sunday, April 19. For ticket and other information, visit or call (206) 441-2424.


MAGGIE LARRICK is former editor of the Queen Anne & Magnolia News.