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10 Facts about Swan Lake

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

Swan Lake has been popular for over 120 years. Here are some fun facts about this classical repertoire:

  1. Swan Lake is considered a romantic ballet.

  2. Swan Lake had two ballet blanc scenes, Act 2 and 4, the swan scenes.

  3. Swan Lake was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s first ballet composition. It was written on the demand of The Imperial Theatre in Moscow.

  4. Some think that Swan Lake is based on the German fairytale “The Stolen Veil”. Others argue that it is derived from the Russian folktale “The White Duck”.

  5. Swan Lake was first performed on March 4, 1877 and was regarded as a failure. Critics claimed the music was too noisy and dancers disliked the fast-paced score. It wasn’t until after Tchaikovsky’s death that French choreographer, Marius Petipa, revived the iconic ballet.

  6. There are several endings to Swan Lake, some happy and some tragic.

  7. There are typically four acts in Swan Lake.

  8. Start to finish, the entire ballet is over two hours long.

  9. The ballet's American debut was in 1940, performed by the San Francisco Ballet.

  10. Swan Lake is famous for the 32 fouettés en tournant in Act 3, an incredible athletic feat. These fouettés are danced at the end of the “Black Swan” pas de deux by the ballerina playing Odile. The pas was an afterthought of Tchaikovsky’s. It was not included in the original production.


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