Arts and Culture

The Louisville Ballet opens its new season with one of the most enduring stories in the classical dance repertoire. “Swan Lake” opens Friday in the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall and runs for three performances through Saturday evening.

Inspired by Russian folk tales, “Swan Lake” is the story of a princess transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer, until a prince’s love threatens to undo the spell. It remains one of the most popular classical ballets. Artistic director Bruce Simpson says that’s partly because the story, despite its magical context, is accessible and universal.

“At the end of the day, these great works of art are about maybe one thing. And of course ‘Swan Lake’ is about love and betrayal, and I think we’ve all experienced that in some way or another,” he says.

Tchaikovsky’s ballet premiered at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre in 1877, but the staging that endured was Marius Petipa’s 1895 St. Petersburg revival. But over the years, “Swan Lake” has been adapted and streamlined in large and small ways. The Louisville Ballet’s production is based on Petipa’s choreography with additional choreography and staging by Simpson, who says that his priority as a choreographer is to carry a consistent tone throughout the ballet.

“Everything that happens in the ballet has to have a dramatic connection to the central part of the story, and it’s not just there for the sake of being pretty,” he says.

Listen to an interview with Simpson about the Louisville Ballet’s “Swan Lake.”