Swan Lake

Pennsylvania Ballet, 2004; Badisches Staatstheater, 2009; Joffrey Ballet, 2014

Credits | Reviews  ⇓


Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1876

Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon

Stage Design by Adrianne Lobel

Costume Design by Jean-Marc Puissant




Costume Supervisor: Mary Terrey (Karlsruhe), Carol Lingwood (Pennsylvania Ballet production)

Costume Makers (Pennsylvania Ballet production) include Sue Pearl, Jane Gill, Sasha Keir, Susanne Parkinson

Tutu: Yoshi Terashima

Milliner: Jenny Adey

Dyeing: National Theatre, London

Images © courtesy of Badisches Staastheater

“Jean-Marc Puissant’s costumes are so perfect that the dancers could have stepped right out of Degas.”

The Times


The production reimagines the famous classic, builds on its well-known themes and places it within the social cultural reality of the Victorian era of its creation.


In Act 1, in a ballet studio somewhere in Europe around 1880, ballet dancers rehearse Swan Lake ahead of the premiere of the work.


By Act 2, the young man dancing the role of the Prince projects the malefic character of von Rothbart onto a donor watching rehearsals. He sees the lake through the ballet studios’ walls and transfers the fantasy of a White Swan on ballerinas.


Act 3 takes place during the company’s final fundraising event for the production in their ballet studio. The donor brings an group of cabaret artists to the party, each performing their number, eventually conjuring a sensual Black Swan in the Prince’s imagination.


By Act 4, the production becomes as much an exploration of ballet as an abstract art form as it is story-telling – universally emotional and spiritual.



The Times by Debra Craine

Jean-Marc Puissant’s costumes are so perfect that the dancers could have stepped right out of Degas, and when they pause to pin up their hair or adjust their tights, the effect is uncanny.


The New York Times by Anna Kisselgoff

(…) brimming with dance ideas and stunning images, Mr. Wheeldon has assembled a crack team that has worked on Broadway and in dance (…) There are a barre and a bench for the Degas girls, wearing Jean-Marc Puissant’s beautiful knee-length tutus and neck ribbons (…) The fantasy characters are real people the protagonist encounters in his life. Thus the Patron, elegant in tails, is transformed into Rothbart as a tramp in tattered coat, stalking the swans in the dreamlike lakeside scenes (…) A hilarious floor show for the ballroom scene, in which Odile, Odette’s evil double, seduces Siegfried. But this masked ball is the reality that the hero encounters. Among rich roués, the members of the Jockey Club who acquired mistresses from the Paris Opera Ballet, the man in the top hat and tails from a Degas painting becomes the stand-in for Rothbart, the evil magician. This masked opera ball is all too real, full of decadence and brilliantly summed up in the divertissement: a Russian dance that becomes a strip tease, an invasion of can-can girls (dancing to the tarantella!), and best of all, an overcooked Spanish dance for a smirking and shoving trio.


Houston Chronicle by Molly Glentzer

Jean-Marc Puissant’s costumes were inspired by Degas, with bell-shaped tutus whose top layers fluttered beautifully. There wasn’t a feather to be found anywhere, unless you looked to the theater’s gilded ceiling mural, where swans stretched their wings above Cupid figures. The White Swan scenes, clearly arises from the prince dancer’s imagination, Act 3 takes us back to the studio. There’s a woozy party happening. Same era, but a Toulouse-Lautrec canvas here, complete with a bun-headed madame and a quartet of cancan dancers. A Russian dance is for a Snow Maiden who becomes anything but icy; she lets all the men peel off her many-tiered costume, ending up in her silk skivvies. The Spanish dancers and a czardas couple are intentionally tipsy-looking.


Courier-Post by Robert Baxter

Wheeldon creates a spare, sleek Swan Lake with the help of Adrianne Lobel’s elegant set, Jean-Marc Puissant’s handsome costumes and Natasha Katz’s subtle lighting.


The Village Voice by Deborah Jowitt

(Act 1) A fin-de-siècle dance studio; Degas ballet girls with their bell-shaped white dresses and neck ribbons adjust their slippers and groom themselves; the dancer who is to play the queen mother sits at the back reading a book, and seamstresses adjust costumes; The teacher, bewigged like Jules Perrot, is to play the tutor, and the top-hatted abonné who, with his favors, exerts control over the financially needy dancers, becomes the sorcerer who dominates the swans. (Act 3) Goodbye Degas, hello Toulouse-Lautrec… As a woman in a long multi-layered white gown bourrées about in Tchaikovsky’s slow, seductive Russian dance, roistering men pull strings attached to her garments until she’s in her underwear. The Spanish dance is a trio for two seedy men and Lautrec’s La Goulue in a tight green satin dress. The czardas has an air of vulgar gusto, and Tchaikovsky’s Tarantella becomes a cancan for five women who appear to have imbibed a lot of absinthe.


Ballet.co.uk by David Mead

Jean-Marc Puissant’s stunning costumes deserve special mention. Rather than the traditional stiff white tutus for the swans he designed longer ‘Degas-like’ tutus. Since swans are not pristine white these had a hint of grey but perhaps most noticeably had splashes of orange and black on the chest representing the swans’ bills.