A line of dancers portraying swans—with white feathered skull caps, bodices, and tutus—prepare backstage for their entrance

To The Pointe: Swan Lake

To The Pointe: Swan Lake

All You Need to Know About Swan Lake Before You Go!

Swan Lake may be the most iconic ballet in history. But despite its success today, the creation of Swan Lake in 19th-century Russia was far from smooth sailing. For one, Tchaikovsky bristled at the idea of being labeled a “ballet specialist” like Ludwig Minkus, who would compose bars of music to spec: 8 bars of “happy” music for an entrance, or 16 bars of “dramatic” music for a finale, depending on the choreographer’s needs. Plus, the ballet’s premiere in Moscow was deemed a critical failure. Among all the challenges associated with its debut, how did this ballet find its wings and soar to success?

Helgi Tomasson’s Swan Lake is part of SF Ballet’s 2024 Repertory Season and will be on stage Feb 23–Mar 3.



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Header Photo: San Francisco Ballet backstage during a performance of Tomasson’s Swan Lake // © Erik Tomasson