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Swan Lake Takes Flight in September

Published September 2, 2022

Swan Lake Takes Flight in September

by Steve Trounday

A.V.A. Ballet Theatre is the only ballet company in the state of Nevada that has a full symphony at every single classical ballet. We are proud of this fact and pleased we can offer the best ballet productions in Nevada. On September 17th and 18th, Swan Lake will be performed with the Reno Phil at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. A.V.A. Ballet Theatre is the resident ballet company of the Pioneer; Laura Jackson will be conducting the orchestra. 

While The Nutcracker may be the most popular ballet in the world, Swan Lake is the most famous. For those, like me, who are ballet challenged, here is a little information on Swan Lake

The music was created by renowned composer Peter Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky also wrote the music for The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty ballets. There is some dispute over the origins of the Swan Lake story but most believe it is based on Russian folk tales. The choreography for the original ballet – first performed by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877 – was created by Julius Reisinger. 

The ballet was a failure.

Most ballet companies in the world now use the staging – both musically and choreographically – from a Swan Lake revival by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. The revival was a tremendous hit and has become a beloved production. 

Alexander Van Alstyne, the artistic director of A.V.A Ballet Theatre, has restaged his version of Swan Lake based on the Petipa/Ivanov choreography with his own variations. The ballet was originally performed in four acts. Van Alstyne uses Acts Two and Three as they convey the story he wants told and allows him to showcase the best of his dancers’ abilities.

Photo Credit: A.V.A. Ballet Theatre

The ballet begins while Prince Siegfried and his friends are hunting in a forest. Prince Siegfried sees a flock of swans flying overhead. He aims his crossbow at the swans, but when one comes closer to view – he stops. Before him is a creature more human than swan. As they dance together, the prince learns that the swan maiden is Odette, a princess who was turned into a swan by the evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart. Under Von Rothbart’s spell, she is a swan by day and a woman by night. Prince Siegfried falls madly in love with her and promises to rescue her. Odette tells him the only way the spell can be broken is if a man, pure of heart, pledges his love to her.

The prince will be performed by David Huffmire and Odette will be danced by Chelsea Keefer. Both dancers are from Ballet West. Von Rothbart will be performed by Logan Pachciarz who danced with the Kansas City Ballet.

Huffmire was born in Carson City and raised in Reno. He was introduced to ballet through his sister, Lauren. As a child, he would spend many hours watching her at dance classes. At the age of six, he auditioned for A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker and was cast as a soldier. After that experience, he decided he wanted to be a dancer and began taking jazz, tap, musical theater, and ballet classes. At the age of 11, he began taking classes at the Conservatory of Movement with Van Alstyne as his instructor.

“I knew right away he had a special talent,” Van Alstyne said. “He has the gift of natural ability and the discipline to work hard.”

By his teen years, Huffmire was getting serious about his ballet training. He attended “summer intensives” at both Ballet West and the San Francisco Ballet where he went through rigorous ballet training. Throughout this period, he danced in dozens of ballets with A.V.A. Ballet Theatre. Some of those performances include Colin in The Secret Garden, the prince in The Nutcracker, and as a bluebird in Sleeping Beauty.

After graduating from Galena High School, he was offered a trainee position with Ballet West, which he happily accepted. Soon after, he was promoted to a member of the second company of Ballet West. During this time, he would come home to Reno and dance with A.V.A. Ballet Theatre in major roles such as the Snow King in The Nutcracker, the Mer King in The Little Mermaid, and the featured male performer in the rock ballet Vortex during Artown.

At 20 years of age, he joined Ballet West’s first company and worked his way through the ranks as an apprentice, a new artist, and has been a member of the corps de ballet for the last two years as a soloist. Now 24, Huffmire trains five to six hours a day – not including rehearsal time for Ballet West performances. I am looking forward to seeing him back on the Reno stage.

Joining the guest professional dancers, will be a large cast of A.V.A. Ballet Theatre dancers as the elegant swans. These dancers have been working for months and it is impressive to see how these talented local dancers move so gracefully across the Pioneer stage. Twenty-thousand dollars’ worth of costumes and sets have been brought in from the Eugene Ballet for this production. The Pioneer stage will be filled with beautiful dancers and Laura Jackson and her brilliant Reno Phil will fill the theater with the dramatic score. In anticipation, I can’t stop humming the music.

Steve Trounday is a board member at A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, the resident ballet company of the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. The next production is Swan Lake September 17 and 18 at the Pioneer Center.

More from Steve Trounday

Dancers Near and Far Share the Stage by Steve Trounday — August 5, 2022

Vortex, the Ballet that Rocks 2022 by Steve Trounday — July 8, 2022

Ballet with a Live Orchestra by Steve Trounday — June 10, 2022

En Pointe by Steve Trounday — May 13, 2022

Local Dancer’s Rise to the Top by Steve Trounday — April 15, 2022

Back on Stage with Beauty and the Beast by Steve Trounday — April 1, 2022

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