Hail to the Swan Queens – Odettes & Odiles Around the World

by Emilia & Linda on February 18, 2011

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) in Swan Lake. Photos: Fox Searchlight Pictures ©

“Move over, Natalie Portman: You may be favored for the Oscar in Black Swan, but there’s a real-life, flesh-and-blood ballerina generating heat as the swan queen!” says Jocelyn Novek, one of the writers quoted by Milan-based arts blogger Graham Spicer in a roundup of praise for the remarkable Odette/Odile of Sara Mearns.

NYCB’s Mearns is part of a young crop of Swan Queens who are revitalising and leaving their artistic mark on this challenging double role, at a time when Black Swan effect means interest in Swan Lake is bigger than ever. And with so many different productions around the globe, those who are new to the “Lake” are really spoilt for choice. In this slideshow we look at some of these productions, with focus on the iconic figures of Odette and Odile.

Over to you: who are your favorite Swan Queens of recent times?

With special thanks to all ballet companies credited in this slideshow.

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Elise February 18, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Polina Semionova !!!!! all the way the others are pretty but just that pretty Polina stands out of the group.

Santhya February 19, 2011 at 2:43 am

Xiao Nan Yu :)

Gramilano (Graham Spicer) February 19, 2011 at 6:53 am

I’m pleased you’re mentioning the glorious Sara Mearns. She danced Swan Lake in Rome in 2008. I expect everyone’s already seen the YouTube clip from that performance, but here’s the link if you haven’t. (warning: it sounds as though a 1940s reporter is typing his review near the camera!)


PS You’ve chosen some great photos!

Aubane February 19, 2011 at 8:18 am

Polina Semionova, without a doubt !

Minkus February 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

First of all,congratulations for the photos, they are brilliant ¡
If I had to choose only one ballerina of the photos I would choose Marianela Nuñez.
I have seen often her Swan Lake DVD and it is simply perfect. Her Odette’s variation is magisterial. Really, when I saw for the first time the DVD I remained really astonished with Nuñez.
I have seen dozens of Swan Lake performances, live and on DVD,so there comes a point that is difficult that one remains impressed, but Marianela Nuñez obtained it.
Also I have to say that another ballerina who has impressed me much has been Gillian Murphy in her Odile’s variation.

Rachel Handshaw February 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

What a lovely array of photos!

Favorite Swan Queens that I’ve seen so far: Diana Vishneva, Aurelie Dupont, Zenaida Yanowsky and Julie Kent

Swan Queens that I would love to see: Ekaterina Kondaurova, Viktoria Tereshkina, Polina Semionova, Sara Mearns, Marianela Nunez, and Laetitia Pujol

naomip86 February 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Uliana Lopatkina is definitely Swan Queen No.1, I haven’t seen such a ballerina who actually has wings and has the ethereal spirit of Odette. Viktoria Tereshkina is also a magnificent Swan and her arabesques are amazing.

elia February 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Marianela Nunez is a perfect Swan Quenn!
A great Queen!

Antoine February 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Emilie Cozette . ballet de l’opéra de Paris. Idéale Odette/Odile.
Sarah Lamb . Royal ballet . wonderful Odette/Odile.

Lisa Copeland February 20, 2011 at 8:41 am

Lopatkina (of the Mayinsky) is the most perfect Odette I have seen. Wish her Odile had a bit more seductiveness.

Julia February 26, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Lopatkina makes me cry with her Odette, but i wish Gillian Murphy could enter the stage in her place every time Odile appears!

Julia February 26, 2011 at 9:29 pm

everytime* sorry

Julia.D February 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Svetlana Zakharova is also very good in Swan Lake but Lopatkina has more of a swan expression to me

Celeste February 28, 2011 at 3:52 am

Without a doubt Marianela Nunez she is absolutely breathtaking!

Nat March 1, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Zenaida Yanowsky is my favourite. Her Swan Queen was so majestic, passionate and beautifully poignant.

Rachel Miller August 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Irina Kolesnikova of St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre (best I’ve seen in real life).

Ulyana Lopatkina on TV.

Roy July 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I do too agree – the photos are divine, each capturing a facet of the dancer’s interpretation.
If I had only to choose from this group, I would pick Marianela Nuñez. Her Odette/Odile is ideal in its balance between delicate white swan and steely black swan. Tamara Rojo and Zenaida Yanowsky also come in close.
But my favourite swan queen hails from an earlier era – Natalia Makarova. Her partnership with Antony Dowell for the production, which was recorded, never fails to get the tears going in the final act.
I must also mention ballerinas who have delighted me in the dual role: Alina Cojocaru, Agnes Letetsu and Svetlana Zakharova.

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