Miami City Ballet Brings Back Triumphant 'Swan Lake'

Huge Production Includes the Entire Company, Locals, and Miami City Ballet Students

Miami City Ballet Dancers rehearsing


Miami City Ballet Dancers rehearsing "Swan Lake." Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

Cameron Basden, Dance Writer

“Swan Lake;” the tale of treachery, drama, sorcery and true love set amidst a magnificent Tchaikovsky score, stellar dance technique and in the best of circumstances, a visually stunning production. It is indeed a feast for the eyes as well as the senses.

Miami City Ballet (MCB), under the guidance of Artistic Director, Lourdes Lopez, revisits for the second time, Alexei Ratmansky’s extravagant realization of “Swan Lake” starting on Thursday, April 18 through Sunday, April 21 at the Arsht Center in Miami. The massive production will travel to three different theaters (no easy task) including the Arsht, then to the Broward Center, Fort Lauderdale, the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, wrapping up on Sunday, May 12.

.Lopez says, ' "Swan Lake" is a necessary ballet to help build audiences. Literally every company in the world has a 'Swan Lake.' I wanted something of our own. I looked around a lot and one night looking thru YouTube, I came across something that said Ratmansky Schwanensee. It was the trailer from the Zurich Company that had premiered his 'Swan Lake.' It was so beautiful, so different, so human, that it stayed in my mind.”

Ratmansky has worked with MCB often. He was in Miami rehearsing his “Symphonic Dances” and Lopez mentioned how his reconstruction of “Swan Lake” had affected her.

Ratmansky said, “ Do you want it?”

It is a large production requiring 55 to 57 dancers, more dancers than MCB has in the company, but Lopez moved ahead undaunted.

“And this is where the school comes in big time,” she says referring to the Miami City Ballet School.

What is it about Ratmansky’s production, and the ballet itself, that makes it so iconic — desired by dancers to dance and audiences to experience?

A brief history reveals that the ballet was originally created by Julius Reisinger in 1877, premiering at the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow. At the time, it was not very successful due to choreography that was uninteresting and a lack of any real communication with Tchaikovsky about the score and the tempi.

Time passed, choreographies and music were commissioned until finally, the ballet was recreated in 1895 in St. Petersburg by noted choreographers of the day, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with an augmented synopsis and with the original score by Tchaikovsky. The new ballet was a success and this became the notated version — and the version from which almost all renditions refer to.

As times have unfolded, “Swan Lake” has been reproduced in many iterations, keeping much of the original synopsis, and even adhering somewhat to the Petipa choreography.

But no one has done such encompassing research and thorough reproduction as Alexei Ratmansky.

The dual role for the female lead in the charmed swan, Odette, woman by night, swan by day, and the temptress, Odile, Von Rothbart’s daughter (often called the "black swan") is a revered technical and artistic challenge for ballerinas. Similarly, are Siegfried’s manége (circle) of jumps and exhilarated tours en l’air (jumping air turns).

"In the know" audience members watch the technical delivery, the subtle artistic flavors and without a doubt, anticipate the dynamic 32 fouettés, or whipping step on one leg, that is a showcase of the black swan pas de deux.

Does the audience realize how very exhausted the ballerina is at the onset of the fouettés having just performed a pas de deux and variation? And how Siegfried, confessing his love, is honestly bewitched by the temptress, Odile and Von Rothbart? Do they need to?

Miami City Ballet Dancers rehearsing Swan Lake. Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev


Miami City Ballet Dancers rehearsing Swan Lake. Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

At any rate, the exhilaration of the dynamic score and extreme technical brilliance creates an infectious atmosphere of palpable excitement.

Audiences and dancers alike are carried away in the thrill of the tale.

One of the hallmarks of Ratmansky’s production is the humanity.

Of course, there are technical feats, but what resonates is the true love that Odette and Prince Seigfried develop. Odette is a bewitched woman, with human emotions.

Featured MCB “Swan Lake” dancers share their experiences about rehearsing, past performances and working with Ratmansky, himself, on a ballet that is a stand alone example of “Swan Lakes.”

MCB principal, Ashley Knox, says, “Growing up, I think every dancer wants to do 'Swan Lake.' "

Having performed the George Balanchine, one-act version, Knox says that this is such an opportunity to take on the character from the beginning of the story to the end.

“We’re portraying more of the human side of the character rather than the feathers and wings of a swan. I think it makes it more relatable for the dancers. It’s a big responsibility to carry such a role.”

Principal dancer, Stanislav Olshanskyi is a veteran “Swan Lake” dancer, having performed various versions in his past.

“Alexei’s (Ratmansky) version is different. He has done such research and I can see that his choreography is really how dancers of that time danced,” Olshanskyi says. “I find our training in MCB is actually a really good fit for Ratmansky’s choreography.”

The dancers agree that their daily MCB class builds powerful and strong dancers — one of the necessities in Ratmansky’s choreography.

“There are certain steps, from an audience perspective, that may seem easier,” Knox adds. “But in reality, it’s actually more difficult.”

She gives the example of chainée turns (whirling spins in a line) on demi-pointe or a manége of soutenus (using two legs) rather than piqué turns (on one leg). Extensions executed a little lower, passé positions a bit lower. Seemingly easier, but not so.

“I like having the challenge of two different personalities,” Knox says. “Odette is so somber and scared. She doesn’t think true love will ever come. She gets a glimpse of that love, she trusts — and then it’s taken away. I think her character can be relatable to a lot of people.”

Olshanskyi explained his character development.

“I try to make it real, real reactions, not because it is choreographed that way. I try to not plan every move. I don’t plan how I’m going to respond, how my body responds and what kind of feelings, how my soul will react. Of course I go over the steps and conversations, but I really want to be present.”

The dancers feel becoming their roles in “Swan Lake” is an opportunity to leave this world and to become a part of another.

Soloist, Brooks Landegger and Taylor Naturkas, principal soloist, are both new in the roles and will be dancing together.

Naturkas was in Ratmansky’s “Swan Lake” production for MCB in 2022. Ratmansky was arriving for rehearsal the next day.

The dancers anticipate hearing his words and digging deeper into the story. They also look forward to watching his movements.

Miami City Ballet Dancers rehearsing Swan Lake. Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)


Miami City Ballet Dancers rehearsing Swan Lake. Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

“I think watching Alexei move is very natural to him. Watching him show us what he wants in the steps, it makes so much sense,” Naturkas says. “He is very particular.”

Landegger has not met Ratmansky. He’s heard from everyone that “the way Ratmansky demonstrates his choreography is mind blowing.”

“I’m really looking forward to that,” he says with a laugh.

“You can tell that his wheels are turning. He looks at the whole production, and everything makes sense in his head.” Naturkas says.

In reference to the roles of Odette/Odile and Siegfried, Landegger says, “The choreography fits the story. The movement, I think, is a vehicle to have the story effectively told.”

Landegger continues, “Ratmansky has created a production that is so well understood. It makes sense. The steps tell the story. Often Lourdes (Lopez) says, just do the steps. It’s all there. We all talk about the pantomime. It is not the most important part, but it’s equally as important.” 

“As Odette, I’m under a spell, woman at night, swan by day. If he (Siegfried) swears to love me, swears, then the spell will be broken for us all,” Naturkas says. “In the Odile role, it’s a little more natural for me. The steps, the power - it resonates with me. I’ve had to really work on the softer Odette role.”

Landegger jumps in enthusiastically. “She looks spectacular in both. But she totally wins me over in the Odile, black swan, role.”

He explains how the white swan, Odette, appears three times during the black swan pas de deux. Each time, Odile cunningly says, I’m here, pay no attention. On the third time, Landegger says, “She’s won me over. I’m totally captivated.”

He opens his long arms wide as in submission.

“I hope that reads to the audience. That’s what we’re working on,” he says.

Naturkas agreed the 32 fouettés are a highlight of the black swan pas de deux.

“I do them every day. I think when you’re tired, you’ve done white swan and the black swan pas, the adrenaline kicks in.”

“Everyone’s looking at Taylor,” Landegger says with a laugh. “She’s transfixed us all.”

All the Odile’s are excited about executing the 32 fouettés.

Dawn Atkins and Stanislav Olshanskyi rehearsing


Dawn Atkins and Stanislav Olshanskyi rehearsing "Swan Lake." Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

“Doing 32 fouettés in class is much different than doing them after you’ve done the pas and variation,” Knox says. “You’re already fatigued when you start. But the character, the power, the music gets you through.”

The final act is the culmination of the tale. Odette is totally devastated and Siegfried is crazed.

“I think of any heartbreak I’ve ever had, especially with such weight on it. How can you go on? There is no life to continue,” Knox says.

Landegger says that Siegfried does everything possible to ask for forgiveness. He is so remorseful. But it’s too late.

Naturkas says her knees are weak, she is just running. She still loves Siegfried.

In the final scene, Odette and Siegfried appear together in eternity, having broken the spell.

Not commonly known, is that MCB advanced students are participating in the “Swan Lake’ production. One of the privileges and opportunities that MCB students are given is to augment “The Nutcracker,” the full lengths, and larger MCB repertory ballets..

“Swan Lake,” as noted before, requires a massive number of dancers. Lopez and school artistic director, Arantxa Ochoa, are thrilled.

Ochoa says, “Getting to dance with Miami City Ballet is an exceptional opportunity for the students’ artistic growth. It is the embodiment of all their hard work and is an invaluable experience for any young artist. They are dancing masterpieces alongside wonderful dancers.”

Three MCB students, Peyton Andersen from Tennessee, Natalie Martin from Vancouver, Canada and Giselle Tiret from Portland Oregon, share their experiences of the MCB school, working with the MCB company dancers, the rehearsal directors and with Ratmansky, one of the most iconic choreographers of today.

Andersen is a pre-professional MCB dancer, affectionately known as a "pre-pro." While he usually has his own encompassing daily pre-pro schedule of classes that include ballet, pas de deux, repertory, contemporary or pilates, participating in “Swan Lake” has made the schedule look very different.

“We spend the day rehearsing with the company and basically follow their schedule and have their same breaks,” Andersen says. “The day is a little longer.”

As a new MCB student in 2022, Andersen was in the MCB premiere of “Swan Lake.” Since then, he’s also had the opportunity to work on a few of the larger repertory piece — and to work with Ratmansky.

“It was a great introduction to be being here, what an opportunity,” he says. “Ratmansky was here for the whole process. I’m a big ballet history buff, so being in the studio with him was just amazing.”

For the company, working with well known choreographers and important people in the dance world is much of what they do. For a student, working with iconic names in the dance field has a huge impact on their training and their futures.

Stanislav Olshanskyi has been in numerous productions of


Stanislav Olshanskyi has been in numerous productions of "Swan Lake" and Dawn Atkins will, for the first time, dance the lead role for Miami City Ballet's "Swan Lake." Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

“I got to hear his ideas, how particular he is; how the hands are shaped or the tilt of your head or the angle of the body. And he had a reason for everything he did, that’s historically what it was,” Andersen continues.

“When I first came here, I didn’t realize that I would have the opportunity to work with the company or to learn the ballets that I have. It was equally scary and exciting to be in the room with the company. Now, every day, I say, how much I would love to be part of this company.”

Being in the rehearsals with the company is a great opportunity for the rehearsal directors to see the students in action. Students learn various parts, they jump in when someone is out sick or injured, and realize that the team at the front of the room is seeing how they fit in with the professional company dancers.

“I feel like I learn and grow by watching the company dancers. I may not do things exactly the same way, but I can make it fit for my own body,” says Andersen.

Natalie Martin is a first-year pre-pro. She attended the 2023 summer intensive.

“I came here and had a phenomenal five weeks. It was amazing and eye-opening. I auditioned for the full-year program and was accepted,” she says. “I graduated a year early, so this is a gap year for me to focus on dance. Next year, I’ll start online college courses.”

Participating in “The Nutcracker” was Martin’s first professional experience.

“It was so frightening,” she says. “I’d never been in that atmosphere before and being surrounded by all these amazing artists. Just being in the same room, let alone dancing with them was so ‘oooh,’ so exciting.”

Martin admires the work ethic of the professional dancers — how they push themselves, their dedication to achieving the best technique. She says that each dancer is unique and has their own sense of artistry and performance quality.

“I feel 'Swan Lake' is really fitting for MCB dancers. I’m learning four different roles. It’s a lot to learn, but that’s why I’m here,” she says.

Martin uses the word "invited" to be in the rehearsals. She feels that being in the rehearsals is validating and inspires her to keep pushing herself and working.

Speaking of the directors, Martin says with a smile, “They see everything. You always have to be present and focused. We are there to learn and dance, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Apprentice, Giselle Tiret, had just received the exciting news that she is joining the MCB company for the next season.

Coming to study at MCB school when she was 14, Tiret has advanced through the levels of the school and is now culminating that time by joining the professional company. She has rehearsed and performed with the company since 2020.

“I worked on the first 'Swan Lake,' and have done a number of Balanchine and Robbins ballets. Especially now joining the company, I’m thankful to get a taste of different styles. Ratmansky is definitely specific and a little different,” Tiret says. “The second time around feels much more organic.”

Since she’s been working with the company for a number of years, she doesn’t get nervous in the rehearsals, but there is always a little flurry in her chest of possibility. And now that possibility is realized.

As Ochoa says, “Working with the main company is a dream come true for any student.”

And obviously, it has benefits that might culminate in joining MCB.

“Swan Lake” is a spectacular production and, as Landeggar says, “Audiences will be just amazed.”

Lopez concluded with, “For me, it’s about giving the dancers and the audience as much range as possible for them to understand the breadth of this art form and what is possible.”


WHAT: Miami City Ballet “Swan Lake”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 18, Friday, April 19, Saturday, April 20 and 2 p.m., Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21 


WHERE: Adrienne Arsht Ziff Ballet Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami


WHAT: Miami City Ballet “Swan Lake”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27  and 2 p.m., Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28 


WHERE: The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave, Fort Lauderdale


WHAT: Miami City Ballet “Swan Lake”

WHEN: 2 p.m., Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11 and 1 p.m., Sunday, May 12 


WHERE: The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd, West Palm Beach

INFORMATION: 305-929-7010 or

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