Angel Corella spreads his choreographic wings

Philadelphia Ballet presents Swan Lake

3 minute read
A black & white portrait of Corella. He faces the camera straight-faced with a black top and a black and dark gray background
Angel Corella innovates in Philadelphia Ballet's production of 'Swan Lake.' (Photo courtesy of Angel Corella.)

Audiences know Angel Corella as a virtuoso dancer and as the artistic director of Philadelphia Ballet. Over the past year, we have also discovered his choreography in the flirty Suspended in Time, set to the music of ELO, and Landscaping the Mist with a Philip Glass soundscape. In March, Swan Lake opens at the Academy of Music with another choreographic credit.

Clear as Glass

For Landscaping, he faced a gap in the program around two pieces that made use of only half the dancers. So he decided to create something with the rest of the company. “I adore Philip Glass. I had this piece of music that I was completely in love with—I saw people moving, energy going, and I thought, let’s try it and let the music and the dancers help me. And it was done in less than a week and a half. The whole ballet. It was that fast.”

While he loves the pas de deux and the solos, Corella admitted, “I like to work with patterns and I really like to work with big groups of dancers.” His work is also marked by its musicality. For Landscaping, he says, “I wanted to use all the layers of the music, and I think that is what made an impact—I was so comfortable with the music.” He said he learned a lot from observing the work of choreographers like Jiří Kylián and William Forsythe, who may interrupt the measure of a dance with three steps to a single beat, or just half a step to keep it interesting. But it is always about the music: “that is something Balanchine said, it’s like you are seeing the music in the dancers. So that was my intention, to show the music through the dancer.”

The art of experimenting

For Swan Lake, Corella has taken into consideration the sensibility of a contemporary audience that loves the romantic ballets of the past. He said he feels more comfortable with these ballets because he has danced them so often. “I think I danced Swan Lake with like 20 different companies around the world.” He learned the history and the nuances of the work and then, he said, “I tried to gather all the different beautiful moments from the many different versions that I’ve done and put them together into this Swan Lake.” At the same time, he said, dancers can do a lot more today, “so you have to experiment with the kind of movement that is going to be understood by today’s audiences.”

Two ballet dancers next to each other. In front is Torriente in a tutu, w/ Baca behind her in all black with long black wings
Spreading wings with Sterling Baca and Dayesi Torriente of Philadelphia Ballet. (Photo By Arian Molina Soca.)

Modern audiences, however, have a short attention span, so Corella has made some judicious cuts, trimming the national dances in particular. “In the score, in some cases, the phrases are repeated five or six times. Okay, I got it already!” Beno’s solo in Act 3 is gone because it felt redundant, but the pas de deux between Siegfried and Odette is a little longer, he said, to give them a little more time to reconnect before the big death scene. Baron Von Rothbart, the evil magician, will ditch the heavy cape for an impressive set of wings that will make it easier to dance.

Still, he hates to call himself a choreographer. “I know how to put steps together, and I know how to put them with the music, but I think a choreographer really has a special vocabulary.” However, it may be that his visual grasp of pattern is his signature. If Swan Lake leaves you wanting to sample more of Corella’s choreography, the company will be performing another piece this summer at Red Rose Farm—he promises Lindy Hop!

What, When, Where

Swan Lake. Choreography by Angel Corella. Philadelphia Ballet; presented by the Academy of Music. $25-$199. March 3-13, 2022, at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia. (215) 893-1999 or

All patrons must wear masks inside the building. Patrons aged five and over must show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination at entry. Patrons over 18 must also show photo ID. Proof of negative Covid tests will not be accepted, with the exception of children under five, who are required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before showtime.


The Academy of Music is an ADA compliant venue.

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