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Athletes with flat feet

Syracuse City Ballet’s upcoming production of the classic fairy tale and much-beloved ballet Swan Lake promises to balance artistry and athleticism in a staging that will be the region’s first since the company last performed it in 2004.

Dancers must display incredible athleticism in all ballets, of course, especially when dancing en pointe. The 26 bones (the feet contain 25% of all the bones in the body) and more than 100 muscles of the feet must support leaps, turns and other complex movement, all while the dancer is balanced on the tip of her toes.

But Swan Lake is particularly demanding regarding the technical skill and athleticism of the dancers, even those in the corps de ballet. Some dancers must hold uncomfortable positions, remaining perfectly still, for up to 10 minutes — something that requires more strength than many movements.

And in one of the most famously breathtaking moments of the choreography, the ballerina dancing Odette must complete 32 fouettes, 32 consecutive turns in place, using one leg to whip herself around while she balances on the toes of the other.

Those feats don’t come easily, even for dancers who have been training since childhood.

That’s why the company has been training seven days a week for the upcoming show. Artistic Director Kathleen Rathbun says it’s the strongest cast they’ve ever had.

In additional to local dancers, Rathbun has brought on several national dancers to give audiences a truly world-class experience.

One of Syracuse’s own dancers, Jake Casey, will be returning home to dance the role of Benno. He began his training under Rathbun, and has been dancing most recently with the Cincinnati Ballet. He participated in the company’s last staging over a decade ago, and Rathbun thinks that seeing the grace and strength in his dancing will be an inspiration to current Syracuse dancers.

Abigail Morwood, also of the Cincinnati Ballet, will be portraying Odette.

Swan Lake will be presented at the Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater in Syracuse. Performances are May 15 at 7 p.m. and May 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets range in price from $17 to $55, excluding fees, and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com.

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