Ballet dancers never reveal the labor of their work. Whether onstage or in rehearsal, they hurdle through moments of exhaustion to preserve an effortless illusion. Even when a character calls for anger, sorrow or pain, a dancer can still move the audience with beauty. The Dying Swan, originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine in 1905, breaks this quest for effortless beauty. It presents the ultimate challenge—how to appear weak, and at times, ugly.
Set to Saint-Saëns’ heartbreaking music, this moment portrays an elegant swan’s last breaths. Evelyn Hart, the longtime star of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, performed The Dying Swan at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Gala in 2000. At 44 years old, she presents this timeless piece of choreography with unbearable grief. She is undoubtedly beautiful, but not afraid to reveal vulnerability and exhaustion. It takes a seasoned career like Hart's to master this sort of performance and artistry. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!