Dancing Odette/Odile in Swan Lake is a rite of passage for many ballerinas. Because the character of Odile is actually the evil Von Rothbart’s daughter magically disguised as Odette, the two roles are most often portrayed by the same dancer, but occasionally they are danced by two different dancers in the same performance. If you could only dance one role… which swan would you be?
Odette: Regal and True
Odette is an innocent. She’s sweet, noble and guileless. She is Queen of the Swans, who, along with her flock, is a victim of Von Rothbart’s evil curse. She is doomed to be a swan by day, and only allowed her humanity from midnight to dawn. Only the love of a man who swears eternal fidelity can break the spell and free her – and she’s putting all her eggs in Prince Siegfried’s basket.
Odile: The Seductress
Odile is a vixen. She’s flashy, bewitching and manipulative. She’s magically disguised as Odette, to trick Prince Siegfried into pledging his love to her instead. She doesn’t love Prince Siegfried, but that doesn’t much matter. She’ll do whatever it takes to ruin Odette’s chances at love and freedom – even if it takes 32 fouettés.
Odettes/Odiles Throughout History
Here’s a look at five ballerina’s throughout Swan Lake’s 100+ year history that have danced both roles and helped to make them iconic:
“She is a princess of the night; she is all magic, a creature of the imagination.”
- George Balanchine
“A lyrical drama in dance requiring not only impeccable academic schooling but a special gift for dramatic acting.”
- Natalia Makarova