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Grace in motion at the Craterian

To begin with, Baron Von Rothbart, despite having transformative magical powers over nature, apparently couldn’t win love on his merits, so he resorted to turning some lovely maidens into cygnets, and Odette, woman of his evil desires, into a swan queen to prevent her from having another. He wore a fancy black-feathered costume, too.

The house lights went black. Conversation ceased. We sat in foreboding darkness until the enchanting strains of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” began.

We were whisked away without leaving our seats. Last night at the Craterian Theater at the Collier Center for the Performing Arts I entered a magical, foreign wilderness and witnessed the most glorious story. Before my eyes and those of a sold-out house, a gathering of lovely young women became a graceful and captivating lamentation of swans.

Under the power of the evil Baron, they were helpless over their plight. Only the power of true love could save them. There was nothing we could do but watch, wait and hope for a happy outcome.

There were handsome men in tights, too, including Odette’s true love, Prince Siegfried, and one colorful jester who wowed the crowd with his balletic catapulting and swirling across the stage. But, with the women, long, slender arms became wings as the dancers flew on pointe to the moving score against a mystical backdrop. They appeared light, like delicate birds, not weighty humans.

Much of the story is told through facial expression. These swans were forlorn. Prince Siegfried displayed sincere heartbreak that his beautiful swan queen couldn’t be human because of the curse. The Baron tried to fool him with the evil black swan, Odile, who looked identical to Odette because the same prima ballerina played both parts. I could sure see his pain because I’d purchased a great seat in row F and brought my antique opera glasses. I watched the faces and studied their extraordinary costumes, which were dazzling. All participants played to the moment no matter if they weren’t the present focus.

Those dancers had zero flab, let me tell you. They are floating muscle. We the audience, with possibly a few exceptions, had no clue what extreme physicality is involved. We knew what we liked and applauded and cheered, but inhabit a different realm altogether— one with cheeseburgers.

I tried to imagine what it must feel like to be them and have to perform several shows a month. Then I discovered professional ballet dancers never stop training. Most dance 10 hours a day, and will be in classes or performing five or six days a week. And the majority earn a low to average salary — between $15,000 and $35,000 per year. Their career draws to a close by age 35 or 40, as with other pro athletes. The need to dance must compel them, like fellow workers within the arts. Applause must mean a lot. I hope they return.

Prince Siegfried rescued his Odette by annihilating the Baron with a clean crossbow shot. True love won out this time, though the original ending was tragic.

On my way in to the theater, a sweet young woman struck up a conversation. She asked if I was going to the Craterian. I said yes, and she said she was, too. She pointed out that we both had worn leggings. “They go with everything,” she said.

I said it was getting to be “that time of year.” It was about then that I realized she was hearing impaired, so I began looking at her when I spoke. She wanted to share this experience with someone. How fortunate for me that I happened along. She was delightful, and I hoped her seat was near mine, but I never saw her again once amid the clamor.

Later, I considered all the varied performances at our wonderful venues, and that dance is one genre she can enjoy fully without aid. The movement is the music. Her name is Elizabeth, and I hope she reads this. She added much to the evening.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach out at peggydover@gmail.com (different address) Some letters were not reaching her.