Dancing the Black Swan

-by Jennifer Sommers, Houston Ballet Outreach Coordinator and Curriculum Specialist

Houston Ballet's Swan Lake

Mireille Hassenboehler and Andrew Murphy, artists of Houston Ballet; Swan Lake; Amitava Sarkar


Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 film Black Swan traces the psychological breakdown of a ballerina preparing to dance the leading role in Swan Lake in a fictional New York ballet company. When it premiered on the big screen, it received fantastic reviews such as these:

“To induce a state of dread and mesmerize with beauty is a rare, paradoxical achievement.”  –USA Today

“Wild and wooly, the movie is a breathtaking head trip that hails from a long tradition of backstage melodramas…” –Philadelphia Inquirer

 And reviews that panned it like these:

 “For all its dazzling allure, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, a feverishly psycho thriller set in the hermetic world of classical ballet, proves a meaningless exercise in Grand Guignol exhibitionism.” –NPR

 “Not just any kind of trash, it’s high-art trash, a kind of “When Tutu Goes Psycho” that so prizes hysteria over sanity that it’s worth your life to tell when its characters are hallucinating and when they’re not. –The Los Angeles Times

But what do dancers who have prepared for and danced Odette/Odile in Swan Lake think of the movie? That’s what we will find out when Houston Ballet concludes its 2013-14 Dance Talks series on May 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm with a special screening of Black Swan at Sundance Cinemas, followed by a panel of current and former Houston Ballet principal dancers. The dancers will share their thoughts about the film’s portrayal of the lead dancer, life in world-class ballet company, and what it’s like to prepare for and dance the lead role Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.

 Welch SL - Webb and Walsh

Connor Walsh and Sara Webb in Swan Lake; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Former principal dancer Dawn Scannell, who danced her first Swan Lake for Houston Ballet on opening night in 1996 with Carlos Acosta, will moderate the panel. She will be joined by a group of favorite Houston dancers including: former principal dancer Lauren Anderson, who first danced Odette/Odile in 1996 with Sean Kelly; Barbara Bears, who first danced the lead in Swan Lake with Li Cunxin in 1991 while she was still a corps de ballet member; Mireille Hassenboehler, who danced the Stevenson version of Swan Lake with Carlos Acosta and performed with Andrew Murphy on opening night for the premiere of Stanton Welch’s Swan Lake; Sara Webb, who has danced both the Stevenson and Welch version and is preparing to perform Odette/Odile again in June; and Karina Gonzalez, who Houston will see in Swan Lake for the very first time in June.

Join us on Tuesday, May 27th, at 7:00 PM, at Sundance Cinemas, 510 Texas Avenue, for a fun and insightful night of ballet and film!

 For more information about our Dance Talks visit: http://www.houstonballet.org/Education_Outreach/Dance_Talks/

Swan Lake (ConnorWalsh&BarbaraBears2) - Welch

Barbara Bears and Connor Walsh in Swan Lake; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Seating for the free screening of Black Swan is first-come, first-served, and tickets may not be obtained in advance.  Please note that Black Swan is a psychological horror film, and is not suitable for younger or more sensitive audiences.

Image from Black Swan Film


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s