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Swan Lake: A Life-Changing Experience

Published May 20, 2022

Swan Lake: A Life-Changing Experience

by Rosine Bena

Sierra Nevada Ballet is preparing to present the famous magnificent ballet classic Swan Lake this summer: the Eldorado Showroom in Reno in July; the Warren Trepp Amphitheater at Lake Tahoe in July; and the Carson City Community Center in August. 

Swan Lake is the most memorable and yet the most challenging of all the classical ballets – both technically and artistically. It is hauntingly beautiful and an unforgettable moving experience for the dancers as well as the audience. 

Rosine Bena with Horacio Cifuentes in Swan Lake (photo courtesy Rosine Bena)

I remember first performing professionally in the Swan Lake corps with the Washington Ballet when I was a senior in high school. Then, shortly after my graduation, I was honored to be chosen as the first American female in the Stuttgart Ballet (considered at the time to be the top ballet company in the world) under the direction of John Cranko. 

Being in the full Swan Lake for the first time with the Stuttgart Ballet was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my dance career. I was told that (because I “had a feeling for the Swan”) I should understudy International Prima Ballerina Marcia Haydee as the Swan Queen. At 17 years old, I was the youngest member of the company, and new to the demands of dancing in a highly competitive ballet company. While honored by the invitation, I promptly refused the offer stating: “I am challenged enough dancing in the Swan corps. I simply cannot even imagine myself trying to dance the lead Swan Queen role.”

A few years later I danced the White Swan role coached by the famous ABT ballerina, Sally Wilson, and was later cast as the lead in the full-length ballet. 

Each time I performed Swan Lake, my reviews were surprisingly wonderful, stating such things as: ”Rosine Bena was born to dance the role of the Swan Queen.” I often wondered how the critics and audiences could feel that way when I personally felt that performing the role of the pure ethereal Odette and the fiery seductive Odile was something one could never truly perfect in only one dance lifetime.

Rosine Bena and Simon Dow in rehearsal (photo courtesy Rosine Bena)

Then, I met Simon Dow. 

Every ballerina dreams of the perfect dance partner and I was no different.  

I had some wonderful experiences dancing with more than 250 different partners in my career but (until Simon) I had never quite experienced my perfect dance match. 

My daughter, dancer-choreographer-director Ananda Bena-Weber recalls: “I have been extremely privileged to have watched a lot of great ballet in my life. I have seen most of the world’s best companies and most famous dancers at the world’s most important venues. And yet, one of the most spectacular performances I have ever witnessed remains the Swan Lake that my mother, Rosine Bena, danced with Premier Danseur Simon Dow. I was 11 years old and was cast in the ballet myself so I had the privilege of watching from onstage and from the wings. The heart-rending tenderness, nuance, meticulous musicality and general electricity between Bena and Dow was extraordinary. Rosine’s exquisite technique and unique anatomy with unusually long arms and supple legs allowed her to create an enchanted half swan half woman creature that one believed was indeed under a magical spell. She was totally mesmerizing. I remember that performance like it was yesterday. I still feel it in my bones.”

The experience of dancing Swan Lake helped me on every level, on stage and off. I remember the time when I was in a lot of pain for many hours giving birth to Ananda, or the times when I was very fearful prior to my hip replacement surgeries, I would repeatedly say to myself: "You danced the Swan Queen… you can do this."

Dayoung Young in Swan Lake (photos by Kate Luber)

SNB’s Swan Queen is Dayoung Jung and she shared her first experience dancing the Swan Queen in Swan Lake: "When I got to perform Swan Lake in 2017 with Oklahoma City Ballet as Odette/Odile, it was a dream come true. It is a magical ballet that all ballet dancers dream of.  Swan Lake is considered one of the hardest of all ballets-technically, physically, and emotionally. Especially portraying two different roles in Swan Lake. That is so very challenging but also the most rewarding part of the experience!"

Dayoung performed the role of Giselle with SNB in 2021 and we all loved her as did our Nevada audiences. Deyoung is excited to come back to SNB.

Dayoung Young in Swan Lake (photos by Kate Luber)

“I can’t believe it’s been one year already,” said Jung. “I so much enjoy working with SNB. Everyone in the company is so welcoming, nice and supportive! I really enjoy being coached by Rosine Bena and love the experience of performing at the different wonderful Nevada venues such as the stage on the beach in Lake Tahoe.  Seeing the beauty of the surroundings is so inspiring! I am very much looking forward to dancing the Swan Queen with all the SNB dancers this summer in Swan Lake.”

We at SNB are very excited to share the unforgettable magnificent experience of Swan Lake with all of our northern Nevada community this summer.

For more information on SNB or to purchase tickets, visit our website at or call SNB at 775-360-8663. 

Rosine Bena is the founding artistic director of Sierra Nevada Ballet

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