City.ballet." Recap: Episode 10, “Swan Lake

Sara Mearns getting into character--and headdress.

I was surprised to discover the dual role of Odette/Odile in New York City Ballet’s version of Swan Lake is so demanding that it must be shared by three ballerinas over six performances. As Teresa Reichlen succinctly puts it, a normal ballet lasts only 20 minutes, and the main ballerina isn’t even onstage for the entire time. In Swan Lake, however, the ballerina is onstage for nearly an hour total, over the course of a two-and-a-half hour ballet.

In this episode, Sara Mearns, Ashley Bouder and Reichlen are all preparing to dance the ballet—in drastically different ways. Bouder, for example, is all about her diet: She swears off soda, alcohol and anything that will dehydrate her for the two weeks leading up to the performance, and she takes potassium twice a day. Reichlen, on the other hand, just tries to dance as much as she possibly can in order to build up endurance. (Reichlen also cops to treating herself well in the way of dinner after a performance of Swan Lake, tallying up one meal’s list that includes two separate dinners, half a bottle of wine and a margarita. Basically, she’s awesome.)

As you might have expected, there’s no Black Swan rivalries or eating disorders on the minds of these dancers. Like true professionals, they’re focused instead on giving their best performances of a ballet that drains them physically and mentally.

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