It isn’t often that a 209-year-old ballet company comes to town. The Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet of southern Ukraine is just such a company.
It was founded in 1810, when the United States of America was just 34 years old. James Madison was president, the U.S. annexed West Florida from Spain, young children worked in mills and factories, horses were the main mode of transposition, barbers performed surgery, and anesthesia hadn’t been invented yet.
Much has changed since then, but the Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet is still going strong.
It will bring its production of Swan Lake to the Embassy Theatre on Jan. 16.
Tchaikovsky’s first Ballet
Swan Lake, with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, premiered in Moscow in 1877.
It was Tchaikovsky’s first ballet. At a point when Tchaikovsky was still a young (and, by all reports, thin-skinned) upstart, the Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet was already 67 years old.
Swan Lake tells the story of a princess who is turned into a swan by a sorcerer.
Whatzup spoke by phone with Odessa native Anna Tyutyunik, a 15-year veteran of the company, who dances the role of one of the swans. Despite its age and fantastical elements, Swan Lake remains very relatable, Tyutyunik said.
“It’s about love, about human relations,” she said. “It’s about our life, I think. We all need a little fairy tale in our life.”
Everything in the Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet company’s Swan Lake is first-rate, Tyutyunik said: costumes, choreography, lighting, sets, and performances.
“This year, the production stars 55 Russian performers,” said the Embassy’s chief marketing officer John Hughey. “The production is staged to recorded music. The costuming and backdrops are lavish, honoring traditional Russian ballet productions.”
Tyutyunik said the Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet tours North America with three productions: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.
She said she has developed a fondness for this country through many years of touring.
“I do like it very much, the United States,” she said. “I like this country. I like the people, their lifestyle, the weather in the south. You have very good theaters. Very good audiences. I feel very comfortable in the United States.”
PArt of the Embassy’s mission
Bringing international touring companies to the Embassy is part of the theater’s mission, Hughey said.
“We like to welcome international artists to Northeast Indiana,” he said. “I personally believe live performances are transformational and inspirational. For some of our younger audience members, Swan Lake will be their very first ballet. They will hold this memory for the rest of their lives. I hope every family with a child in dance class takes this opportunity to see world-class performers. Young dancers will be inspired by the talent.”
Showcases of professional dance will always remain a programming priority for the Embassy Theatre, Hughey said.
“Audiences have asked the Embassy’s programming team to bring dance to our stage, from ballet to modern,” he said. “In fact, this past October, the Embassy presented Catapult, a modern dance company. The response was tremendous. We presented three performances featuring Catapult. Presenting dance on the Embassy stage is a tradition that will continue each season. We look for new opportunities each year to inspire and enrich our community.”