The SWANS Of New York City Ballet’s Swan Lake

by Michael Mahany | 9/26/2017 4:11 PM


New York City Ballet’s Swan Lake. Photo Credit:Paul Kolnik for NYCB


The revival of Peter Martins’ version of Swan Lake opened New York City Ballet’s 2017-2018 season last week at the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center. This is the second staging of Martin’s version of Tschaikovsky’s musical masterpiece for NYCB since 2006— which begs the question: with the popularity of the Natalie Portman led film version, the world renowned Matthew Bourne staging, and the original Ivanov/Petipa/Balanchine choreographed version of the work being produced regularly around the ballet world, how is it that New York City Ballet continues to push the bounds of modern day classical dance with a re-staging of a fairly recent and oversaturated ballet?


Well, the short answer is: with its exceedingly talented company of principal dancers sharing the leading role of Odette/Odile: Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen, Ashley Bouder, Sterling Hyltin, Megan Fairchild, and Tiler Peck — but, more on these incredible women in just a minute.


The long answer includes a lot of collaborative and creative work on the part of Mr. Martins and his team, but also, what the title Swan Lake means— not just to dancers, but to the contemporary ballet audience as well. Swan Lake doesn’t just sell tons of tickets, it jumps at the heart of dancers and classical aficionados alike.


According to NYC Ballet, “While retaining the well-known set pieces from the traditional version by Petipa and Ivanov, Mr. Martins has imbued his production of Swan Lake with the speed and clarity that New York City Ballet is known for. The lakeside scenes are based on the choreography of Balanchine's one-act version. For the divertissements of the "Black Swan" scene, Martins has created a sensuous Russian dance intended as an homage to the exoticism of the early 20th-century Russian artist Leon Bakst”.


It also must be noted that Swan Lake itself wouldn’t happen without the electric New York City Ballet Orchestra and its set of tremendously talented maestros, the production’s costume and set designer Per Kirkeby, lighting designer Mark Stanley, a whole team of folks working behind the scenes, and thousands of combined hours of dedication and hard work from the entire NYC Ballet staff.


Most importantly, however, as NYC Ballet itself says, “A ballet doesn’t— can’t— exist without dancers. They carry within themselves the technique, knowledge, steps, and understanding to bring countless works of art alive. They are the raw material, inspiration, and institutional memory on which choreographers rely.” So, in reality, what keeps New York City Ballet leading the cutting edge of the ballet world, is its top notch dancers. With the rich history of universally known NYCB alums, names like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Wendy Whalen, and Jacques d’Amboise easily come to mind. While the brilliantly talented members of the Corps De Ballet and the company of soloists are the glue that hold the company together, it’s the dancers who attain the rank of principal who are, to many, considered dance royalty.


Extra: See Dance Network’s Interview with former NYCB principal and star of RESTLESS CREATURE: Wendy Whalen


None more so, especially at this moment, than the six women sharing the leading role of Odette/Odile: Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen, Ashley Bouder, Sterling Hyltin, Megan Fairchild and Tiler Peck. It is truly through these women, dancing at the height of their respective careers, that New York City Ballet is seeing a brilliant renaissance not only in its principal dancers, but specifically within its ballerinas. If the future of City Ballet looks anything like its present, we are entering a new golden age in Fine dance.


With the opening of Swan Lake last week, we at Dance Network wanted to introduce you to the strong and extremely talented dancers who’ve been tasked with the demanding role of Odette/ Odile. They are genuinely living an acronym of their SWAN title: Strong Women At NYCB’s Swan Lake.


Sara Mearns


Sara Mearns. Photo Credit: Sara Mearns


Sara Mearns has officially been a principal with New York City Ballet since 2008, but performed in the original 2006 staging of Martin’s Swan Lake, when she was chosen from the Corps to take on the leading role. She made her Broadway debut in the 2012 revival of On The Town, which was choreographed by her fiancé, Broadway and Emmy-winning choreographer Joshua Bergasse. Ms. Mearns will team up with Mathew Bourne and ABT’s Dominic North in the New York debut of The Red Shoes later this Fall at New York City Center.


Extra: See Sara Mearns Dance In Matthew Bourn’s The Red Shoes at New York City Center


Teresa Reichlen


Teresa Reichlen. Photo credit: Henry Leutwyler


Ms. Reichlen grew up in Virginia and became a principal dancer with New York City Ballet in 2009. Recognized for her height and versitility, Ms. Reichlen has originated roles for Mr. Martins and NYCB resident choreographer Justin Peck. She’s also appeared in over 30 Balanchine re-stagings in her time with the company.


Ashley Bouder


Ashley Bouder. Photo Credit: The Huffington Post


Ms. Bouder was raised in Pennsylvania, and after her time with the School of American Ballet, she was invited to apprentice with New York City Ballet. After joining the Corps in 2000 she was then promoted, in 2005, to principal. She performed the role of ‘Dewdrop’ in the Live From Lincoln Center telecast of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, she received the Mae L. Wien Award for Outstanding Promise, and was the 2002-2003 Janice Levin Dancer Honoree. Ms. Bouder also has a one and a half year old daughter named Violet Storm de Florio,


Sterling Hyltin


Sterling Hyltin. Photo Credit: Lincoln Center


Sterling Hyltin was born in Texas and joined the company Corps full time in 2003, and in 2009 was promoted to principal. She was seen in the documentary Ballet 422, which followed the creation of Justin Peck’s Paz de la Jolla. Ms. Hyltin was also the Janice Levin Dancer Honoree for 2005-2006, and has performed in over fourteen of Peter Martins’ pieces and close to 30 Balanchine works in her time with NYCB.


Megan Fairchild


Megan Fairchild. Photo Credit: Nathan Bajar/NYT


Megan Fairchild is an accomplished dancer with New York City Ballet who will be making her debut in the role of ‘Odette/Odile’ on September 26th. Along with her principal dancer duties with NYC Ballet, she is also a teaching fellow at the School Of American Ballet. She danced on Broadway in the 2012 revival of On The Town as ‘Ivy Smith/Miss Turnstiles’ and was nominated for an Outer Critic Circle Award and won a Theatre World award. Her brother, Robert Fairchild, is also an accomplished principal dancer with New York City Ballet and has found success on Broadway. Megan danced the role of the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ in the Live From Lincoln Center telecast of The Nutcracker.


Tiler Peck


Tiler Peck. Photo Credit: National Dance Institute


Ms. Peck, (who has no relation to resident choreographer Justin Peck) was born in Bakersfield, California and originally studied at her mother’s studio before moving to the Los Angeles area to further her training. Ms. Peck joined the Corps in 2005 and was promoted to principal in 2009. She’ll be making her Odette/Odille debut on September 27th. In 2014, she appeared in the Kennedy Center production of the new musical Little Dancer, and was on Broadway in both On the Town as ‘Ivy’ and in The Music Man. She also performed the role of Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.


Extra: See Tiler Peck’s Red Carpet Interview with Dance Network at the National Dance Institute’s Gala back in May 2017


For more on NYCB’s Swan Lake and the SWANS carrying the show, visit


Also, keep your eyes open later this week for coverage from New York City Ballet’s Fall Fashion Gala. Dance Network host Michael Mahany will be on the red-carpet taking it all in and talking with the city’s hottest dance stars.