The internationally-acclaimed Russian National Ballet Theatre stops at Louisiana Tech University for a sold-out performance of Swan Lake.
article by Kelsy Kershaw | photography by Martin G Meyers
The Howard Center for the Performing Arts on Louisiana Tech’s campus in Ruston, La. housed a sold out crowd for the Russian National Ballet Theatre’s rendition of “Swan Lake” Wednesday, April 29. This ballet performance was the last in a jam-packed talent-filled lineup brought to Tech’s campus by the Louisiana Tech Concert Association (LTCA). The lineup also included the Turtle Island Quartet, pianist Christopher O’Riley and the American Shakespeare Center’s version of “Hamlet.” Over 1,100 tickets were sold to “Swan Lake.” It’s been quite some time since Howard Auditorium has seen a crowd of this magnitude. It was no surprise though, since the Russian National Ballet Theatre is internationally-acclaimed and the story of “Swan Lake” is an age-old classic.
The arts and entertainment industry is a significant component of today’s society. It employs hundreds of thousands of people each year and provides Americans with social enjoyment and social education. The arts are especially important to a rural area, like north Louisiana, where availability to both jobs and performances is limited. With Louisiana Tech being so well-known for its engineering and sciences programs, the local artistic culture gets that much more important. The artists who live there need opportunity for growth and development of their skills, and the people need exposure to them. Why? Because arts play a very important role in education. Author Eric Jensen said arts “enhance the process of learning, because the systems they nourish, which include our integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotion and motor capacities, are, in fact, the driving forces behind all other learning.” This is a concept the LTCA has grasped and strives to support wholeheartedly each year by providing a diverse lineup of entertainment open to anyone who purchases a ticket.
With any form of entertainment in the arts culture, there is always a story to be told. This is what Isabela Palmieri found so moving about “Swan Lake.” Palmieri, a freshman at Tech, said the entire performance was incredibly beautiful.
“I think ballet is one of the most beautiful art forms, because the dancers tell an entire story solely with their body movements,” she said. “It has always been my dream to see Swan Lake performed professionally, and I am so glad I was able to experience it.”
With a talented theatre department at Tech, students and community members alike have several opportunities to enjoy plays, musicals, concerts and various forms of musical and performance theatre, but not a lot of interpretive theatre. That is the beauty of “Swan Lake;” the way it tells the same story every time but could be interpreted or perceived differently by each person who sees it.
“I was reminded that art isn’t just about painting,” Palmieri said. “There are so many art forms and ways of self-expression…I loved seeing how talented the Russian dancers were.”
She said she thinks it is extremely important for college students to experience a performance of this magnitude at least once during their academic career. For many students, they won’t get an opportunity like this again, she said, it may also spark a passion or fascination about something they never knew they had.
“I think that we easily lose our creativity and appreciation for the performing arts in a world that is full of technology and easily accessible information,” Palmieri said. “With such entities as Netflix and Amazon Prime, people stop going to the theatre, including ballet performances.”
There is as much, if not more, inspiration and entertainment to be drawn from a live performance as opposed to an episode on Hulu or Netflix. There is no high quality image editing or video manipulating; it is talent in its rawest, purest and most well-defined form. It provides a new level of appreciation for performers or those involved in any sector of the arts culture. Anyone who witnesses the beautiful display of talent is touched, even if they aren’t directly involved with the execution of the talent. Katie Brumfield said that was her favorite part about “Swan Lake.” Brumfield, a junior at Tech and an usher at the performance, said she didn’t know what to expect, because she had never seen a live ballet performance before.
“I was amazed the whole time at the sheer strength, precision and power the incredibly talented dancers have,” she said. “I have so much respect for the dancers; they work so hard.”
As a member of the theater department at Tech, she also worked hard for this performance. Brumfield played a role in setting up the stage for the performance. She said it was an indescribable experience, because it allowed her to be part of something so much bigger than herself.
“I loved getting to work with my classmates and professors to get the show ready,” she said. “It really was an honor to be there.”
This is just another example of the bliss of the artistic culture. It brings people together, people of all ages from all different walks of life. Eleven hundred plus seats provided 1,100+ opportunities to impact a different mind.
“It was awesome to see the response the community had to the ballet,” Brumfield said. “Tech Theatre also puts on incredible plays every quarter, so hopefully, Tech students and the Ruston community will take note of the talent within the community and continue supporting the arts year round.”
Watching the arts, supporting the arts or performing the arts; each component is equally important and beneficial for students and the community. Eva Edinger said Ruston should have more performances available to its students and community members like “Swan Lake.”
“Ruston thrives on tradition,” said Edinger, a junior and Miss Tech 2015. “I think this would add a new sense of culture to our community.”
As a veteran dancer of 16 years, the art of performance is near and dear to Edinger. She’s had the opportunity to attend many professional performances across the nation growing up, and she said each one is as much an eye-opening experience as the previous one. Of all the performances she has attended, this was her first time seeing “Swan Lake” live. “The whole company did a fantastic job, and the principal dancers were phenomenal,” she said. “The ballet company not only had wonderful technique, but it was evident the dancers had a burning passion for dance, and that is what’s so appealing to the audience.”
Edinger hopes Tech students and Ruston community members alike gained a greater appreciation for dance and for the arts by attending the performance. “Swan Lake” is so elegant, beautiful and timeless, and it’s breathtaking. Edinger said she hopes it inspired those in attendance in some way, shape or form.“Experiences like this do not come around often,” she said. “I think it is essential for someone to experience the movement and expression of ballet; dance allows people to connect with one another.”
To Edinger, dance in general, not just ballet, has a huge impact on our artistic culture and vice versa. It is constantly growing and evolving and remaining an integral part of society. “Dance allows one to express his or herself, inspire others and expand his or her creativity,” she said. “When I am dancing, I feel free and alive.”
The love Edinger has for dance is just one beautiful example of how the arts can influence a human soul. Artistic culture touches anyone around it, both directly and indirectly involved.
“Dance is engraved in my heart and soul, and no one can ever take that away from me,” Edinger said. “It is a beautiful art form that leaves the audience astounded and amazed.”