The Pennsylvania Ballet is doing something different with their production of “Swan Lake” this year. Rather than doing the more modern take on the iconic ballet by Christopher Wheeldon, they’ve decided to keep it traditional.
“This is the actual production of ‘Swan Lake,’ with the gardens, the palace, tutus and tiaras — this one is the classical version,” says artistic director Angel Corella. “The pas de deux are the standards and some of the passages are quicker.”
If you’re a ballerina playing the lead role in “Swan Lake,” it’s exceptionally challenging because you’re tackling two different characters— the sweet white Swan, Odette and the evil black swan, Odile.
“Back when it was created the first time, the lyrical ballerina would do the white swan and the more technical and strong dancer would do the black swan,” Corella notes. “Today, dancers have to be versatile enough to do both.”
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26-year-old Dayesi Torriente is up for such a challenge and then some. Hailing from Havana, Cuba, Torriente joined the Pennsylvania Ballet as a soloist for the 2016/2017 season and was soon promoted to principal dancer for this season.
“Dayesi is amazing in the white swan but she’s fire in the black swan,” says Corella.
For Torriente, playing the lead role in “Swan Lake” has been something she’s aspired to her whole life.
“I saw it when I was five years old in Cuba. I went to the theater and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is beautiful. I want to be that ballerina, I want to be Odette,” she remembers. “The role is sweet and you really have to make the difference between being sweet and fragile and evil and dark.”
And like the movie, “Black Swan,” Corella admits that there’s some truth to the intense emotions a dancer goes through playing two roles.
“Sometimes dancers go through painful processes of discovering a role that may be apart of themselves. It starts to become real when you get into the skin of a character and it’s up to you to brush it off after the show and go back to who you are,” he says.
Luckily for Torriente, she’s got a great support system at home, as she’s been in a relationship with fellow principal dancer Arian Molina Soca for many years, who plays Rothbart and Prince Siegfried.
“I love his support and my support for him. We understand what we need to do for this career,” she says.
The Bey and Jay of the Pennsylvania Ballet both came over from Havana and love living in Philadelphia.
“We live in Old City. Arian loves to do photoshoots on the street and I love to be a model,” Torriente says. “We go to dinners and drinks with friends. We really love Continental.”
But when it comes to dancing together, it’s all professional.
“When we are dancing, we are not Dayesi and Arian. We have to believe that we are the characters,” she says. “It’s not about the steps, the turns or the jumps — it’s about telling the story.”
If you go:
The Pennsylvania Ballet
Through March 18
Academy of Music
240 S. Broad St.