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  • Writer's pictureBrodie Schmidtke

Armstrong Williams: Escaping politics and pain at ‘Swan Lake’ | STAFF COMMENTARY

PUBLISHED: February 25, 2024 | www.baltimoresun.com


Every now and then, the American people need an escape from things — an escape from politics, an escape from the sadness that plagues our world. For most Americans, that escape comes in the form of television, movies and sports. Yet, for some, they find their escape in the art of ballet.


Ballet is a form of performance art that has its roots in 15th and 16th century Italy and France as entertainment at weddings. Ballet traces its name to Ballare, meaning “to dance” in Italian. Ballet took its modern-day form in 17th century France under Louis XIV, who established its performance-art-focused form, using it for political purposes to maintain social control of the people.


“Swan Lake” is a ballet unlike any other. Composed by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky from 1875-1876, it has become one of the most popular ballets of all time. Today, it stars the astounding Herman Cornejo. The sold-out show at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., tells the tale of Princess Odette, who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer. The ballet is breathtaking, with its lead showcasing the pinnacle of ballet talent.


“This production was made in 2000,” Cornejo told me, “So I’ve been in this production for 24 years.”


Growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Herman Cornejo took up ballet after seeing his sister’s love for it. “My sister, she started ballet before me. I followed her and I just loved it. I had a talent for dance. In a way, I felt it was easy for me and it gave me joy and just kept going.”


Since then, Herman Cornejo has had a storied career, appearing in ballets such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and Ratmansky’s “Symphony No. 9.” These performances have earned him top accolades in ballet.


Today, Herman Cornejo is known as one of the best ballet dancers in the world.

His longest-running act, “Swan Lake” has seen major success in D.C.


“We usually have sold-out shows, but never for a whole week,” Cornejo said. “This makes me very excited.”


The performance was a work of balletic art that completely captivated me with its graceful movements. It sincerely deserves the extensive acclaim that it has garnered. This performance demonstrated that ballet is not dead; on the contrary, it is flourishing and should be experienced by every American.


“It’s been my dream since I was little … I do these lead roles and I don’t get tired of it. Our reward is when the people enjoy the show. Every show you come out different and you come out better.”


Armstrong Williams (www.armstrongwilliams.com; @arightside) is a political analyst, syndicated columnist and owner of the broadcasting company, Howard Stirk Holdings. He is also part owner of The Baltimore Sun.

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