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Fort Wayne Ballet celebrates 60 years by finally doing justice to iconic ballet

Photo by: Jeffrey Crane

Photo credit: Photo by: Jeffrey Crane

Photo by: Jeffrey Crane
Written by: Communicator StaffMarch 16, 2017

Written by: Zachary D. Elick

Pyotr llyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” is likely the most popular ballet in the world, said Karen Gibbons-Brown, executive and artistic director of the Fort Wayne Ballet.

“Everybody has pretty much heard of ‘Swan Lake.’ So, it’s iconic in that regard,” she said. “It’s one of those ballets that when you travel the world, you always try to catch a version.”

Yet, as far as Gibbons-Brown knows, a full-length version of  “Swan Lake” has never been performed by the Fort Wayne Ballet in its 60-year history. Last fall, the nonprofit professional ballet company performed Act 2 of “Swan Lake” at the 60th anniversary gala, which inspired the company to fix the gap in its repertoire, Gibbons-Brown said.

The Fort Wayne Ballet will perform all four acts of “Swan Lake” at 7:30 p.m. at the Arts United Center March 17 and 18 in collaboration with Fort Wayne Philharmonic. There will also be a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. March 18.

The difficulty of producing a full-length “Swan Lake” was the main reason Gibbons-Brown gave for why the Fort Wayne Ballet has been hesitant to tackle the ballet in its full form. Not only does the ballet contain a plot and a cast of characters, it also has a lot of “group dancing,” she said. Throughout “Swan Lake,” a large group of dancers, referred to as the “corps de ballet,” dress as swans and perform different pieces while dancing in unison.

“The corps de ballet, which means ‘body of the ballet,’ has to be together and they have to breath as one,” Gibbons-Brown said. “To get all those bodies on stage to breath as one and have all of their arms in the same place and have all their eyes going in the same direction is quite a challenge. … The body of the ballet can make or break it.”

Though the ballet traditionally features 32 swans in its corps de ballet, the Fort Wayne Ballet’s production will only feature 18 because of the size limitations of the Arts United Center stage. Pulling off group dances of this size is still quite a feat, Gibbons-Brown said.

Photo by: Zachary D. Elick

Photo by: Zachary D. Elick 

Karen Gibbons-Brown (far-right), executive and artistic director of The Fort Wayne Ballet, leading a group of the company’s professional dancers, apprentices and trainees through a rehearsal of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”


Working as a professional ballet dancer is harder than many people probably think, said Caitlin Quinn, who plays Princess Odette/Odile, the lead ballerina role in “Swan Lake.”

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how athletic (ballet dancing) is,” she said. “You have to do it every day and keep pushing yourself every day.”

In addition to long rehearsals six days a week, most of the dancers have to regularly visit the gym to stay fit, Quinn said.

Originally from the state of Georgia, Quinn has been a member of the Fort Wayne Ballet for four years. She has also danced professionally with Minnesota Ballet in Duluth, Minn., and Ballet San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.

In her dual roles as Princess Odette and Odile — also known as White Swan and Black Swan, respectively — Quinn said she will be embodying both good and evil.

Photo by: Zachary D. Elick

Photo by: Zachary D. Elick

Caitlin Quinn, a member of the Fort Wayne Ballet company, will be performaing dual roles as Princess Odette and Odile, also known as the White Swan and the Black Swan.


To celebrate the differences between the Black Swan and White Swan characters, the Fort Wayne Ballet will host two events in their honor during the two-day run of “Swan Lake.”

The Black Swan Ball is a masquerade party that will be held from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. March 17, and The White Swan Tea Party is a family-friendly tea party that will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. March 18. Both events will be held in the Ian Rolland Gallery at the Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.

Tickets for “Swan Lake” are $40 for adults, $32 for seniors, $27 for youths and $15 for children.

Available from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic box office website, every ticket purchased will include a $4 processing fee.

The Black Swan Ball will be $25 per person, and The White Swan Tea Party will be $8 per person. Tickets for both of these events are available through the Fort Wayne Ballet’s website.