The Ballet Called Swan Lake

We all know what the traditional Swan Lake looks like, don’t we? But hang on, every ballet company seems to have a different ‘traditional’ production. Which one’s for real?!

If you’ve ever wondered what the original Swan Lake looked like, then here’s the book for you! Let revered ballet author Cyril Beaumont be guide your to the story and stage action from which all Swan Lakes take their cue. There are, in fact, two ‘original’ productions: the 1877 version which failed when it premiered, and then there’s the 1894 production choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov – that’s the ‘traditional’ one we usually refer to today.

Written for ballet-goers, teachers, dancers and the curious student who’s a willing reader, Beaumont’s classic text includes:

  • descriptions of the story as presented by the 1877 Reisinger production and the 1894 Petipa-Ivanov version
  • a short biography of composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • a short biography of Lev Ivanov, credited with choreographing the ballet’s ‘white’ act
  • a brief account of the origins of the Swan Maiden myth
  • a survey of the great dancers who have performed the dual role of Odette/Odile.

Those familiar with the technical vocabulary of ballet will appreciate Beaumont’s addition of a simplified choreographic script for Swan Lake. Also included is an analysis of the roles and notes on the original costumes.

Teachers: plan a viewing of Swan Lake for your advanced students and use this book to stimulate discussion and answer questions.

A companion book on the ballet Giselle is also available.

Dance Books, 1952 (republished 2012). Paperback, 180 pages.