The work that goes into putting on a ballet is not unlike that of building a home. You start with a script, or blueprint, and begin the process of finding the right people for the job. Then production begins and things slowly come together to form a solid foundation. Now comes the fine-tuning. Dancers work on their precision and timeliness like builders paint walls and lay carpet, all with their director, or foreman, keeping a close eye.


Later this month all that work will come together as the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati performs Tchaikovsky's famous ballet Swan Lake, April 22 – 24.


Swan Lake is a story of romance and deception. It follows a prince who is of age to take a wife and a maiden who is cursed and lives as a swan by day and woman by night. After falling in love, the pair are torn apart by betrayal and must overcome evil to break the spell and be together.


Director Jiang Qi and his team have worked on the production since January, putting in long days of planning, casting and rehearsing. At times,  the pressure on the dancers has seemed overwhelming, but Qi’s constant motivation and reassurance have given them confidence to put on a great performance.


How does Qi keep the cast in sync? What goes through the dancers' mind when they’re performing? Watch cast interviews and find out what really goes into Building a Ballet.



Madison Holschuh, Odette (White Swan)


How does a swan move? Almost effortlessly, as if to glide across the water. Every motion is necessary and beautiful, powerful yet subtle. It’s a graceful animal that seems to show much emotion with little movement. Portraying this emotion ranks as the top task for Madison Holschuh. Playing a role with many technical challenges, Madison says when she’s dancing, she thinks of how a swan would move. Then she captures that emotion and mirrors it to the audience.


Sam Jones, Prince Siegfried


Five years. That’s how long Sam Jones danced with the Cincinnati Ballet. Then, despite those years of dedication, the ballet ended his run after last season. But Sam got another chance when the dance division at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music offered him a scholarship, allowing the 25-year-old to stay in Cincinnati with his wife so they could start a family in city where they want to plant roots.  Now he has a starring role as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake. With a love for the music and a rapport with a director, Sam hopes to play this role with the confidence and precision it requires.

Kiahna Saneshige, Odile (Black Swan)


The Black Swan. A complicated character who wears many faces. A character who requires an attitude but also elegance. She is cunning and deceptive but hides these traits behind her beauty. Kiahna Saneshige, 21, says she was drawn to the Black Swan because the character has “an edge that I felt as if I could portray.” Kiahna, who has been dancing since she was four, believes she is ready to tackle playing such a diverse character -- with the opportunity to wear a few faces of her own.

Jiang Qi, Director

Passion and dedication are most important to Director Jiang Qi. His main focus is getting the most out of his dancers. He says he has a long history with Swan Lake both in his home country of China as well as during his 15-year-tenure with Ballet West in Salt Lake City. Qi understands the physical and mental endurance that a production of this magnitude requires of the dancers. “They work very hard, but we still have to keep pushing them.” Qi pulls all of the emotions he can from his dancers in order to fulfill his vision of 24 swans moving as one. With a twist on the ending that differs from most American productions, Qi is ready to present his interpretation on this classical ballet to a new audience.


Click here to purchase tickets.

This story was produced by a University of Cincinnati class of journalism and electronic media students. Brevin Couch, Mark D'Andrea, Tyler Dunn, Daniel Honerkamp, Ailish Masterston and Andrew Wilkins contributed. The class was taught by Hagit Limor, assistant professor of electronic media, and Bob Jonason, assistant professor educator of journalism.

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