Taking a ballet on the road isn't easy.
Just ask Natalia Akhmarova, artistic director of Russia's Tchaikovsky Ballet and Orchestra. The company will bring its production of Swan Lake to Modesto's Gallo Center for the Arts next month.
There are more than 100 dancers and musicians to transport, plus a stage crew and elaborate sets and costumes. Then, there are the time changes, hotel stays and long bus rides.
Still, Akhmarova says it's worth it when performers see audiences respond to the show.
"You can see that the people love ballet," she said, "and they love Russian dancers."
The Tchaikovsky Ballet and Orchestra comes from Perm, Russia, a city located about 100 miles from the birthplace of Tchaikovsky, one of ballet's greatest composers. Perm also is home to an acclaimed ballet school, where many of the company's dancers have studied.
The troupe, dating back to 1927, is regarded by many as Russia's third most important ballet company, after the Bolshoi and the Kirov.
It is best known for performing the ballets of Tchaikovsky, ballets that Akhmarova — one of Russia's most famous ballerinas — considers to be the best.
" 'The Nutcracker,' 'Sleeping Beauty,' 'Swan Lake,' they are the most beautiful," she said.
Akhmarova and the rest of the company have been on the road for three weeks so far, and have three more weeks to go. They performed in several cities along the East Coast, then headed south to Kentucky, then north to Michigan. Next stop: California.
The group stages "Swan Lake" in some cities, "Romeo and Juliet" in others.
"Not every company can carry two different ballets," Akhmarova said. "That tells something about the quality of the company."
Not every company has its own orchestra, either. While other groups may rely on recorded music, this company travels with some 50 musicians who help the ballet to come to life.
"Swan Lake" revolves around a prince who, on his 21st birthday, is told by his mother to find a wife. There's a swan that turns into a beautiful young woman. There's an evil sorcerer, a curse, and — eventually — a duel.
Exciting stuff. Especially for Akhmarova, who is thrilled to share the tradition of Russian ballet with American audiences.
"To share this culture, it is a privilege for us."
Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358 or at email@example.com.